Tools down! New restrictions will have wide-ranging impact

Porters Creek Public School at Warnervale

As the Central Coast languishes in the fourth week of Covid lockdown with no end in sight, another crushing blow came on Saturday, July 17, when Premier, Gladys Berejiklian, announced yet another round of new restrictions in response to the stubbornly high number of COVID-19 cases in metropolitan Sydney.

The Coast is included in the tighter and far-reaching restrictions which include a retail shutdown and a two-week ban on construction and building work, an industry which so far has been vital to our Covid economic recovery.

From Monday, July 19, only urgent emergency repairs can be carried out or safety work to secure construction sites.

CEO of Regional Development Australia Central Coast (RDACC), John Mouland, said the shutdown of the construction industry on the Central Coast would cause hundreds of millions of dollars of financial impact to the region and directly impact more than 40,000 jobs.

He said there were more than 5,000 construction related businesses in our region, and the RDACC was deeply concerned with not only the short-term impact of the Covid shutdown but the longer-term ramifications.

Local builder, Daniel Gutierrez, said it was scary times and he couldn’t be shutdown for longer than two weeks before things would start to go sour.

“A couple of my clients have been left with half-finished bathrooms and even if I could go in and finish them, I can’t get materials because those places are closed, or the ones that are still open are running short on supplies.

“It’s a domino effect,” he said.

“I just don’t know what’s going to happen and what’s even more worrying is that I had a few jobs lined up, almost at the point of taking a deposit, but whether or not they’ll go ahead now, I don’t know.

“That’s when I’m going to start feeling it, and I reckon people will hold back on getting work done because of the uncertainty of how long the lockdown goes on.

“This is uncharted grounds, I couldn’t even give my apprentice a definite answer, I just don’t know what’s going to happen,” Gutierrez said.

Construction work on NSW Government projects has also ceased, which will set back the August opening of the $200M redevelopment of Wyong Hospital, as well as the Porters Creek Public School in Warnervale, the $178M Pacific Highway upgrade at Lisarow and the $22.5M Wilfred Barrett Dr upgrade.

“This is an incredibly tough decision but a necessary one,” said Parliamentary Secretary for Central Coast, Adam Crouch.

“The lockdown has succeeded in preventing an exponential increase in case numbers and has also succeeded in preventing COVID-19 from spreading into the Central Coast region.

“However, it has not succeeded in reducing the daily case numbers, which is why the lockdown had to go one step further,” Crouch said.

Harder restrictions on shopping have come into force, meaning that only retailers who provide essential products and services can be open during lockdown.

Retailers who must close can still operate online, offer “click and collect”, takeaway and home delivery.

The ones that can remain open are supermarkets and grocery stores (including butchers, bakers, fruit and vegetables, liquor stores and fishmongers), stores that predominantly sell health, medical, maternity and infant supplies, and chemists.

Other stores that can remain open include petrol stations, car hire, banks and financial institutions, hardware, nurseries and building supplies, agricultural and rural supplies, pet supplies, post offices, newsagents and office supplies.

John Mouland said the RDACC supported the NSW Government’s decisions related to restricting the spread of the Covid Delta strain and encouraged everyone to buy local to support the many businesses doing it tough.

“Some will not survive the Covid-related challenges that they have encountered over the past two years,” he said.

“We need to ensure that our key regional industry sectors such as construction, retail, hospitality and tourism reopen as quickly as possible once the immediate threat subsides, to restrict the long term impact that these preventative closures will have for these vital businesses and our regional economy,” Mouland said.

Sue Murray