Artists, events and the outdoors will feature heavily in Melbourne’s plans to bounce back from the coronavirus pandemic.
Premier Daniel Andrews had an “urgent meeting” with City of Melbourne Lord Mayor Sally Capp “first thing this morning” after she criticised the state’s lack of a recovery plan on Thursday.
Ms Capp said a council survey of Melbourne hospitality businesses showed as many as 12 per cent – more than one in 10 – did not plan to reopen after restrictions eased.
She said the City of Melbourne council and the State Government would team up on a “joint capital city recovery plan” – but was tight-lipped on what measures were included in the plan or when it would come into effect.
She said they were “working on” initiatives to bring people back to the city, with “cultural institutions, artists, working with the State Government around funding, with a big focus on events and being outdoors”.
They are discussed measures around public transport and more help for businesses until Melbourne could reopen, Ms Capp said.
“A really big part of my job is to represent businesses and make sure the Premier has heard, loud and clear, and directly, the concerns and the fears of local businesses,” she said.
“And to understand what they’re looking for, it is clarity, it is certainty, it is confidence, and it comes with time frames – there’ll be more to say on that.
“I was really pleased that in response to my urgent call the Premier agreed to meet first thing this morning.
“We’ll have more to say over the coming days, but it is about pulling together the work of experts, (and) importantly, the voices and ideas that we have collected through our engagement with local businesses.”
Ms Capp said the council and Premier would meet “every week” from now on.
“Devastation and despair is being felt across our city,” she said.
“People who have put their blood, sweat and tears into their city deserve to know they are a top priority, and this is about valuing them.
“How will businesses manage to pay their expenses when they don’t have customers?
“There are a lot of conversations about whether we will ever be the same again, and frankly and we are not expecting to be the same.
“The challenge is to better than we were.”
Ms Capp said Melbourne’s economy was worth $104 billion before the lockdown and was a “major driver” of the national economy.
“Data released yesterday by two of our major banks shows that the economic impact is going to be in the tens of billions of dollars,” she said.
“That is why it is so important that we have an economic recovery plan.
“The urgency (of the meeting) really reflects the hundreds of conversations I’ve had with business owners and workers across the city – family businesses that have been going for generations, sole proprietors, people who have followed their passions.
“They’ve been such a big part of the success of this city for so long, and they need to be part of the future success of this city.”
A showdown is looming between Daniel Andrews and Melbourne’s Lord Mayor Sally Cap over the damaging impact stage 4 lockdown is having on Melbourne businesses.
It comes as the Victorian Premier agreed on Thursday to a crisis meeting with Ms Capp, with the Lord Mayor telling the Today show recent data showed Melbourne was disproportionately impacted” through the pandemic.
“This has local, state and national implications. Importantly, our businesses are devastated and they desperately need to know that their lives and their livelihoods are valued by Victoria, by the Premier, and we want to fast-track a road map so that they have got a way to plan for the future,” she said.
“It’s so difficult when your customers can’t come to support your businesses. In the meantime, without any revenues, there are still so many expenses to cover.
“Of course, in this environment there is no sense of when that will start to change, when will we start to live and work again within the context of coronavirus? When can we get the city reopened so that we can welcome people back and businesses can really get that kickstart.”
Ms Capp said there were plans for reopening schools, “just as there are plans for getting other parts of our community going again”, and urged the Premier to give businesses that glimmer of hope.
“We do need to have some signals to business so that they can start planning,” she said.
“Of course, they may change, depending on what happens, but without some of these signals to give some hope and some confidence it’s really difficult for businesses, their owners, their workers to keep going.
“Together we need to be working on a road map to make sure that lord mayors and mayors, the Premier, the Prime Minister are all involved and focused on how we can help our businesses recover from this crisis.
“If the Melbourne economy is not flourishing it has local, state and national implications.”
When pushed for clarity on Thursday about a road map for businesses emerging from stage 4 lockdown, the Premier said “the first thing is to deal with the health issue”.
“I think we’ve seen a lot of commentary over the recent months. Not just here but across the world that if you don’t deal with the health challenge first, then that big job of trying to recover, trying to repair that damage, just becomes much, much harder,” Mr Andrews said.
“I want to assure workers, businesses, families, communities, that there will be a series of very significant announcements that are about jobs, both saving jobs and creating new jobs, and making sure that we support all of those who have been harmed and damaged by this global pandemic.”