NSW Customer Service Minister Victor Dominello said it was ‘pretty logical’ for Dine and Discover to launch on the Northern Beaches.

Victor Dominello

Victor Dominello

Minister Dominello was joined by NSW Small Business Minister Damien Tudehope and local members Rob Stokes and James Griffin at Beco Cafe at Avalon today to announce the expansion of the Dine and Discover vouchers to the Northern Beaches effective from today (Monday, 22 February).

“This was one of the hardest hit areas. The Northern Beaches did their job over the lockdown. I was so impressed. I had tears in my eyes when I saw that day when 70 thousand people [got tested], honestly I was so proud of our state of course but the people of the beaches, what a great community response. Absolutely they deserve this, they need every assistance and it’s good they will be one of the first cabs off the rank,” said Minister Dominello.

Rob Stokes MP

Rob Stokes

Member for Pittwater and Minister for Planning and Public Spaces Rob Stokes agreed with Minister Dominello’s assessment about the Northern Beaches deserving to be first in line for the vouchers.

“Avalon Beach looked after the rest of our community during the COVID lockdown, now it’s time for all of us to look after Avalon Beach,” said Minister Stokes.

The announcement by Minister Dominello, Minister Tudehope, Minister Stokes and Member for Manly James Griffin can be watched in the following video.

The Service NSW app has now been updated to include an option for ‘Vouchers’ in anticipation of the release of the four $25 Dine and Discover vouchers to every eligible NSW resident. It is expected the vouchers will be released shortly.

Effective from today, those vouchers can be used at registered businesses on the Northern Beaches. Minister Dominello told the Northern Beaches Advocate that around seven to eight hundred businesses were currently registered but he expected that to rapidly increase.

“What you are going to see is a place like this [Beco Cafe] that has registered. You’ll go to the Service NSW app and you’ll see a map of all the businesses where you can redeem your voucher. There’ll be a queue of people coming into this business. Who’s not going to use their voucher? It’s there to use,” said Minister Dominello.

Rita Costa

Rita Costa

Co-owner of Beco Cafe Rita Costa welcomed the news of the vouchers, saying the lockdown had been very hard on their business.

“It was the busiest time of year for us. We have three cafes in the red zone. It was very hard financially and mentally as well. Every time my phone rang I was like, ‘Oh my god, did we get a case?’, but luckily we didn’t.

“I’m not sure how much we lost. This will make people spend money, enjoy their families and help small local businesses. It’s getting better now, we’re going back to our routines but it’s been hard and quite slow,” said Mrs Costa.

Speaking exclusively to the Northern Beaches Advocate after the formal announcement, Minister Dominello said the ability to respond to the pandemic was the payoff for years of hard work on technology and the culture of government.

“You don’t click your fingers and make things happen. This has taken years and years to build capacity inside the engine. It started in many ways with Service NSW and the creation of that ethos seven or eight years ago.

“When there was that Victorian breakout and we had to get border passes up, we did it in a digital way and we were up and out in 36 hours. It’s extraordinary.

“I could not have done that if we had not started a journey seven years ago. That takes a lot of risk taking. You have to change the cultural appetite inside the government. Governments are normally very risk averse.

“When I said to them [the department], ‘Look, we are going to have a QR check-in system’, again they rolled it out really fast. Now we have people downloading the Service app it’s easy to integrate other things. 4m people already have the Service app.

“When the Treasurer got me in the hallway about a month before the budget, he asked me what I thought about a similar scheme they had in the UK and I asked how it worked. He said, ‘You go and pay for a meal, you provide a receipt, and somebody checks it before you get reimbursed’.

“It’s easy for government but a shocking customer experience. I said, ‘Thank god Treasurer you told me now, because I am going to redesign it and we are going to use the QR system’.

“This is seriously world-leading. No-one else is doing this. No-one. If there is a flood or a fire or for some reason some community needs assistance, you wake up in the morning and there’s a $25 voucher.

“If people have got it on their app, if we need more stimulus next year, it can be laser-like in the targeting. We can say, if there is a drought in the Riverina, we will provide vouchers that can only be used in the Riverina. That’s how laser-like we can be. We are so far ahead of the rest of the country on digital and there’s so much more on the runway,” said Minister Dominello.

Images and video: Northern Beaches Advocate