The Peninsula Business Chamber is calling for the NSW Government to take the Central Coast out of the Greater Sydney COVID-19 lockdown but local MPs are not supportive.
“We are obviously very concerned about the impacts of the restrictions on businesses as a result of being included in the Greater Sydney region,” said Peninsula Business Chamber President, Matthew Wales.
“This is clearly having quite devastating impacts on our retail sector and now that we have the construction industry lockdown this is going to severely affect all of our local trades, not only those who work locally but those who rely on building contracts in Sydney,” Wales said.
“This is at odds with previous lockdowns where the construction industry was deliberately left out of those restrictions,” he said.
“We understand, based on the health advice, that the government is concerned about the virulent Delta strain but it should be remembered that we have no active COVID cases on the Central Coast.”
Wales said he had spoken with Liesl Tesch, Member for Gosford, and Adam Crouch, Parliamentary Secretary for the Central Coast about the economic damage being caused by the hard lockdown.
“Both fall lock step in line with the chief medical health officer’s advice so no joy with our local politicians supporting us to be excluded from the lockdown,” he said.
“The local chambers and that includes Gosford, The Entrance and Wyong will all be voicing our view publicly that this lockdown must be reviewed.
“If the government is concerned about restricting movements, then to our way of thinking, we simply prevent movements from the Central Coast to Sydney and vice versa.
“ If it is the government’s view that we should be included because of the high commuter population going into Sydney, clearly the government’s actions have already reduced that to a trickle by introducing, effectively, Sunday timetables on the trains and a near-empty freeway.
“It does not mean that the government has to lock the region down.
“It simply means that we need to ensure that people don’t travel into the city and Sydneysiders don’t travel to the Central Coast, that way you can take us out of lockdown and give businesses the chance to survive.
“There clearly hasn’t been a seeding event on the Central Coast so our view as a local business chamber is take us out of the lockdown because there are many businesses that are saying to me that in two weeks’ time they won’t have a business to go back to.
“I have discussed this with the other major business chambers on the Central Coast and they are of the same mind.
“Each believes we should be taken out of lockdown and, if needed, implement a softer, broader control at the Hawkesbury River Bridge or the Mount White Checking Station to monitor movements to and from Sydney.”
Wales said the chamber had been contacted by many business owners who were distressed about this region’s inclusion in Greater Sydney.
“We have one restaurant operator locally that employs over 70 staff and because of these restrictions 60 of those staff are now no longer working and that translates on a weekly basis somewhere in the order of $20,000 to $25,000 per week in lost revenue.
“A much larger restaurant operation that employs hundreds of workers has now had to essentially let go of 80 per cent of their workforce, the majority of which are young casuals that now no longer have any employment.
“No JobKeeper means these employees have to scramble for whatever assistance they can from the government.
“These are real impacts that affect families every day.”
The construction industry represents one of the largest employment groups across the region and Wales said the chamber is concerned restrictions may drag on.
“The problem the lockdown will cause for the construction industry is that every building project stops.
“This is not a pause as the government calls it; this is a stoppage.
“All the builders and trades have to down tools, walk away from their sites, find something else to do for at least two weeks only to come back and somehow get their building sites operational again.
“It is going to take weeks for builders and trades to restart their projects and on top of that you have the impacts on the supply chain, where orders are postponed or cancelled and then have to be reordered and rescheduled once the lock down eases.
“We are in completely new territory and the effect could be delays of months on building projects.
“I think potentially you could be looking at up to $20 million in terms of the impact on the local economy.
“From the developer right down to the apprentice, everybody gets lumped into this lockdown, it doesn’t discriminate.
“The hidden impact is people’s mental health and underlying all of this we are very conscious as a business community of how this is affecting the mental health of our members and their families.
“This is unchartered territory and the government needs to be incredibly mindful of the impact its decisions are making on our families.”
He said the government needs to get serious about making mass vaccinations available to local residents so lockdowns are no longer necessary.
“The State Government needs to provide facilities in the Central Coast LGA so we can mass vaccinate locals,” he said.