DOUGLAS Shire Council has announced a relief package designed to alleviate pressure on businesses and individuals impacted by COVID-19 over the next two months.

Council endorsed the $179,000 suite of measures and committed to considering further relief in the 2020/21 annual budget.

A buy local campaign called Buy Douglas: Build Douglas will also be launched in May.

Some relief highlights include waiving rent for Council’s commercial tenants suffering financial stress or hardship, refunding venue hire fees, waiving interest on rates for the remainder of the financial year and crediting or refunding all outdoor dining fees until June 30 this year.

Douglas Shire Mayor Michael Kerr said the relief package was a modest way that Council could soften the impact caused by COVID-19 lockdown measures.

“Many businesses in Douglas Shire are doing it pretty tough,” he said.

“Usually, this is the time we are getting ready for a big influx of tourists and start to feel a buzz with Port Douglas Carnivale around the corner, but instead our region has reverted back to its quiet country town beginnings.

“These relief measures will hopefully provide a short-term reprieve and a commitment that Council will continue looking at ways to help the community.”

The full scope of relief measures includes:

  • Waive interest on rates and water – from 24 March 2020 to 30 June 2020 – (est $42k)
  • Remove rates dishonour admin fees – from 24 March 2020 to 30 June 2020 – (est $1k)
  • Pensioner remission application dates extended to 30 June 2020 (usually only permitted in the first three months of the rating period)
  • Credit or refund all outdoor dining fees – 23 March 2020 to 30 June 2020 – (est $21k)
  • Refund all venue hire fees where cancelled due to Covid-19 (est $25k)
  • Rent relief – waive rent for all Council commercial tenants suffering financial stress or hardship due to Covid-19, as defined by their eligibility for the Commonwealth Government’s Jobkeeper program (excluding peppercorn leases, Government  entities) for the period – 1 April – 30 June 2020 (est $70k)
  • Wonga Beach Caravan Park income relief – 1 April – 30 June 2020 (est $15k)

Chief Financial Officer Tara Killeen said that COVID-19 was contributing to an approximate forecast $1.4 million operating deficit.

“The biggest negative impacts we are expecting are associated with the Daintree Ferry, lower water usage and lost revenue from facilities and markets,” she said.

“Officers will continue to track the situation and provide financial advice to Councillors about ways to achieve savings.”