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COVID-19 Northern Rivers News

Changes to Council services and operations during COVID-19 lockdown

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Changes to Council services and operations during COVID-19 lockdown

Due to the NSW Government-mandated lockdown for the Northern Rivers, Ballina Shire Council has closed some facilities and restricted some services.
All essential services including water supply, sewerage, and waste collection will continue to operate as normal.
Ballina Shire’s Council’s Customer Service team are here to help, however all enquiries need to be made via email, phone or online. The Customer Service Centre at 40 Cherry Street will be closed for the duration of the lockdown.
Residents are encouraged to use the Community Portal available on Council’s website at www.ballina.nsw.gov.au. The portal can be used to make payments including rates and water bills, order certificates, make applications, or report issues to Council.
The following facilities and services are CLOSED until further notice:
· Ballina Shire Council Customer Service Centre. Staff are available to take enquiries via email council@ballina.nsw.gov.au or phone 1300 864 444 from 8.15am to 4.30pm (Mon-Fri).
· Alstonville, Ballina and Lennox Head libraries. The eLibrary is available, providing access to reading materials in downloadable digital formats from the Richmond Tweed Regional Library website at www.rtrl.nsw.gov.au
· Visitor Information Centre. Staff are available to take enquiries by email info@discoverballina.com.au or phone 1800 777 666.
· Community facilities: Ballina Indoor Sports Centre, Lennox Head Cultural Centre, Ballina Surf Club, and Kentwell Community Centre. For enquiries or bookings phone 6681 0500.
· Ballina War Memorial Pool and Alstonville Aquatic Centre.
· Northern Rivers Community Gallery.
· The Salvage Shed at the Ballina Waste Management Centre.

The following facilities and services are OPEN with changed or restricted services until further notice:

· Ballina Waste Management Centre is open for commercial operators only who are considered essential workers. For enquiries phone 6686 1287.
· Burns Point Ferry is operational. Ferry ticket holders must remain in vehicles and passengers who need to pay must wear a mask and check in with the QR code provided.
· Ballina Byron Gateway Airport terminal will open two hours before the first flight of the day and close 30 minutes after the last flight of the day. Passengers should check flight schedules directly with their airline. The airport continues its COVID-safe practices including restricting the terminal to passengers only, temperatures checks upon entering the terminal, QR Code check in, and increased sanitisation. For further information on the airport’s COVID-safe practices visit ballinabyronairport.com.au/covid-safe
· Parks and open spaces remain open for exercise in line with public health orders.

Council is committed to maintaining all essential services for our community while ensuring public health and safety. Council thanks the community for their patience and understanding while these changes are in place.

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2022 Floods

Housing demand creates planning challenges

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Housing demand creates planning challenges

The current lack of affordable and diverse housing for buyers and renters is a crisis which is confronting all levels of government.

A move to regional areas, limited government investment in social housing, a boom in short terms rentals, COVID-19, the recent floods and inflation have put great pressures on the property market.

While housing is primarily the responsibility of federal and state governments, Tweed Shire Council plays a key role as a determining authority/regulator for housing and planning law.

 

Council acts on unauthorised dwellings. Over the last 2 years, Council has contributed to an increased supply of affordable housing by encouraging diverse and affordable housing through the approval of more than 130 DAs involving secondary dwelling (granny flats) development controls, in addition to established dual occupancy controls.

In recognising the housing crisis, Council has worked collectively through the Northern Rivers Joint Organisation (NRJO) and Local Government NSW, to be an advocate for action on new social housing supply and affordability policies.

Over the last 2 years, Council has contributed to an increased supply of affordable housing by encouraging diverse and affordable housing through the approval of more than 130 DAs involving secondary dwelling (granny flats) development controls, in addition to established dual occupancy controls.

Attached dual occupancy dwellings are also possible in many rural areas, in addition to established urban areas.

More information can be found at tweed.nsw.gov.au/granny-flats-secondary dwellings

Additional dual occupancy information can also be found at tweed.nsw.gov.au/dual-occupancy

While Council provides a supportive approach to people affected by the housing crisis, it also has an important statutory responsibility to ensure that any land uses or building works provide a safe and secure housing.

Council recently resolved at its 7 July 2022 meeting to reinforce its role in undertaking compliance action on unauthorised dwellings.

General Manager Troy Green said Council had rescinded the resolution at Item 21.1 of the 2 June 2022 Confidential Council Meeting. The resolution sought to extend an initial moratorium from its 4 November 2021 meeting on taking compliance action on unauthorised dwellings up until 30 September 2022.

“After attending a workshop and gaining additional advice from staff, Councillors acknowledged there may be significant risks for Council to extend the earlier moratorium,” Mr Green said.

“In response to the potential risk and liability identified, it was agreed that a late report be submitted to the Extraordinary Council Meeting of 7 July 2022, seeking to rescind Council’s resolution from the 2 June 2022 meeting.

“Council also resolved that any new compliance matters would be subject to the current requirements of Council’s adopted Compliance Policy.”

Unauthorised building works carried out without required formal approval and certification can pose significant risk to life and property.

In other scenarios, unauthorised building works could also be poorly located on sites which are flood prone, bushfire prone, contaminated or landslip areas and thereby present similar life-threatening, public health and environmental hazards.

Council encourages people to undertake their land use activities with proper consent and approvals to avoid causing a nuisance or acting in breach of legislation.

Council has a compliance policy which guides the approach and response to a range of compliance issues.

However we also rely on the community to report unauthorised work and provide evidence to assist Council in taking action.

Compliance officers use their discretion when dealing with such matters, taking into account the evidence, cost to the community of any action, details of the case, public policy and legal precedent.

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COVID-19 Northern Rivers News

PEOPLE WITH DISABILITY URGED TO GET BOOSTER

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PEOPLE WITH DISABILITY URGED TO GET BOOSTER

With a new wave of COVID-19 cases continuing to increase across the state, people with disability are encouraged to get the latest COVID-19 vaccine booster dose.
Minister for Families and Communities and Minister for Disability Services Natasha Maclaren-Jones said people with disability can be more vulnerable to the harmful effects of COVID-19.
“Protecting people with disability is vital as they can be at greater risk of developing serious illness if they become infected,” Mrs Maclaren-Jones said.
“Vaccination is readily available at GPs and pharmacies and we are urging everyone to book in without delay.”
COVID-19 booster doses are recommended for anyone 16 years and older who had their last dose of a primary course at least three months ago.
The COVID-19 vaccine can be taken at the same time as the influenza vaccine, which people with disability are also being urged to take.
While the free flu vaccination program in NSW ends on 17 July 2022, those considered to be at higher risk of severe illness from influenza remain eligible for a FREE flu vaccine beyond this date, under the National Immunisation program. This includes:
• Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from six months of age
• Children from six months to under five years of age
• People with serious health conditions (including severe asthma, diabetes, cancer, immune disorders, obesity, kidney, heart, lung or liver disease)
• Pregnant women
• People aged 65 and over.
The NSW Government is also providing up to 7.9 million rapid antigen tests (RATs) to people with disability and other vulnerable community members with the program recently expanded to 31 October 2022.
To find your nearest vaccination clinic, visit nsw.gov.au.

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COVID-19 Northern Rivers News

Royal Australian College of GPs COVID-19 antiviral treatment

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Royal Australian College of GPs

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has welcomed the expansion of COVID-19 antiviral treatment access.

It follows federal Minister for Health and Aged Care Mark Butler announcing that eligibility for lifesaving COVID-19 antiviral treatments will be widened. From today, access will be expanded under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme to the following patients who test positive to COVID-19:

  • all those aged over 70
  • people aged over 50 with two or more risk factors for severe disease
  • Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people aged over 30 with two or more risk factors for severe disease
  • immunocompromised people over 18 may also be eligible.

RACGP Vice President Dr Bruce Willett welcomed the expansion.

“This is a sound and timely decision that will make a real difference for many patients across Australia,” he said.

“In communities everywhere, we have high rates of community transmission of COVID-19, and we know that some patients are particularly vulnerable to severe effects. By expanding access to the antivirals, we can help keep people out of hospital, relieve pressure on the entire health system and save lives.”

Dr Willett said that once again GPs and general practice teams will be front and centre.

“General practice is the backbone of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, and we play an essential role getting people timely access to these potentially lifesaving antivirals,” he said.

“GPs are the key to safely prescribing these treatments. We have a strong and, in many cases, long-standing connection with our patients and understand their life circumstances including existing health conditions or other factors such as plans to become pregnant. We also have a comprehensive understanding of how these antivirals interact with other drugs and established systems such as telehealth, so GPs can speak with COVID-19-positive patients safely and prescribe the right antiviral without delay.”

The RACGP Vice President said that that more must be done to fight complacency and contain the harm caused by COVID-19.

“Expanding eligibility is vital; however, we must also enhance community awareness around antivirals and ensure that those patient groups most vulnerable to severe effects from the virus access these drugs. They can save your life if taken early enough,” he said.

“People who believe they are eligible for an antiviral should make an appointment with their GP now to plan how they can receive the drugs if they test positive. Because the drugs are listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, a GP will not be able to prescribe an antiviral until the patient actually has COVID-19. So, for those eligible – as soon as you get a positive rapid antigen test or a positive PCR test, call your GP and, if you can’t talk to them, leave a phone message to say you have tested positive and you need a prescription.

“The reason this is so important is that with these treatments we must act quickly. The antivirals have to be given within five days, and they become less effective as you get closer to day five. So, getting that message out there is essential, and I encourage everyone to have conversations with people in their life about these treatments.”

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