Three Councillors have voiced cautious support for an early lifting of restrictions on the Northern Beaches.
Following the revelation last week that the Northern Beaches was being considered as a candidate for an early lifting of lockdown restrictions, the Northern Beaches Advocate contacted all Councillors for their thoughts about the possibility of early reopening.
With Northern Beaches businesses having now endured two protracted lockdowns, some in the business community have said it would be fair for the Northern Beaches to reopen early as long as vaccination thresholds are met.
Mayor Michael Regan is cautiously supportive of an early opening, as long as it is safe.
“Nobody wants to be locked down. For us on the Beaches this is the third time. We have to maintain the trust in the Health advice as we have seen how quickly Delta spreads, and how deadly it is. We don’t want to undo the good work thus far. Governments have to do as much as they can to support businesses in particular to keep their doors open.
“Council is working everyday with NSW Health to keep things open and when restrictions ease, how to accelerate opening up safely. We also work with various other bodies such as Office of Sport to get community sport happening quickly.
“We have the Councils ‘Back to Business’ where we are asking businesses to give us their ideas on how to open up more effectively with restrictions still applying. Can health and beauty salons use footpaths, gyms use outdoor car spaces, RSL clubs use outdoor car parks, and so on,” said Mayor Regan.
Mayor Regan also drew attention to Council initiatives intended to help business, such as five minute parking zones for pick-up and delivery of food and beverages.
Councillor David Walton, a former Senior Police Officer and Crime Manager for the Northern Beaches, is familiar with the balancing act of the restrictions limiting personal freedoms and well-being.
“It is only a matter of time that the Northern Beaches will reach the target of 70-80 percent full vaccination rates. I agree that our Council area, in compliance with NSW Government Health Orders, should have appropriate restrictions eased early.
“Although the Health Order restrictions are as a result of expert medical advice to reduce transmissions of the virus, many of the restrictions are having a disproportionately negative affect on local business, education and our connections to family and friends.
“Council has an important part to play in reducing red tape in our approval processes to enable local businesses and sporting groups to move appropriate activities to a safer outdoor environment.
“We cannot lock down our freedoms indefinitely, and other countries such as the UK, are providing us with a path forward and lessons to learn in getting the balance of reducing the spread of the virus and protecting the economy and our connections in our society,” said Cr Walton.
Councillor Vincent De Luca OAM was cautiously optimistic about plans to reopen the Northern Beaches early, expressing confidence in the NSW Government’s actions to date.
“We need to get people out for their own mental health. We also need to get our local economy going. The Northern Beaches were quarantined last Christmas and this had a devastating, adverse effect,” said Cr De Luca.
However, Cr De Luca reiterated his calls for a mass vaccination hub to be set up on the Northern Beaches to prevent residents having to travel outside the LGA for Pfizer vaccinations.
“Many residents have had to travel as far as Olympic Park, Hornsby and RPA Hospitals to achieve vaccination. Apart from this being burdensome on residents and not accessible to residents who don’t drive or have a disability, it has exposed them to the risk of infection from people coming from hot spot areas in the western suburbs.
“It would be much safer, in order to protect Northern Beaches residents from contagion at these external vaccination centres, to have a pop up mass vaccination centre on the Northern Beaches, away from people coming from western suburbs hot spots,” said Cr De Luca.
Cr De Luca also warned that reopening the Northern Beaches to unvaccinated people from other LGAs could result in restrictions being reimposed.
All councillors were contacted for comment, three chose to respond with substantive replies. Other councillors declined to respond on the basis of it being a matter for the NSW Government to determine, or not having sufficient information to form a view.
The Northern Beaches is unlikely to be eligible for an early lifting of restrictions until the double vaccination rate passes the 70 percent threshold. As of this Monday (13 September) the Northern Beaches LGA has a double vaccination rate of 52.4 percent.