SOUTH Gippsland Shire is running from a myriad of homes as well as from its outdoor depots during the COVID-19 pandemic, as the council’s administration panel, officers and indoor staff work remotely via information technology.
“Local government doesn’t stop just because of a virus,” panel chair Julie Eisenbise said from her home, where she is “on the ‘phone” and attending to the business of the council all the time.
“We all just have to keep going, and my calendar is filled with Zoom meetings with my fellow administrators Christian Zahra and Rick Brown and our senior council staff as well as our colleagues in other municipalities and levels of government,” she said.
“We’ve also been talking to people in local communities and with business associations from throughout the shire.
“As the panel chair, I am South Gippsland Shire’s representative on the Municipal Association of Victoria, and last week I met online with the state’s other 78 mayors and appointed leaders.
“It was incredible, being able to scroll along and see all of their faces and hear their voices, and to take part in the wider discussion about how the current coronavirus situation is affecting us all,” Ms Eisenbise said.
“Every council has different issues and different industries, for example our neighbour Bass Coast Shire has a high level of tourism, whereas South Gippsland is primarily based on agriculture.
“South Gippsland Shire is doing very well, and we’ve managed to keep all of our staff in meaningful work, including those in our outdoor team who are carrying out their duties while abiding by the social distancing rule applying at the moment,” she said.
“In fact, if anything, our workload has probably increased because of COVID-19 as we have to meet all of the statutory requirements and the reporting to government associated with the municipal pandemic plan this shire has now activated.
“The Victorian and Federal Governments have asked all local governments to make sure they’ve got projects ready to roll when the pandemic period is over in order to stimulate the economy and to help communities recover,” Ms Eisenbise said.
“We have to start now and get the planning and background work done for new projects so we can go for state and federal grants, as well as continuing our existing projects.
“We’re proposing to adopt a $2 million community support package at this week’s ordinary council meeting as part of our efforts to keep South Gippsland moving along and we’re also encouraging people to shop in their local towns,” she said.
“The draft budget that was deferred from the March 2020 ordinary council meeting is coming up on the agenda for the meeting to be held this Wednesday April 22.
“The panel has had more time to consider the draft budget, and we know we’ve got to get community feedback on this important document.
“I believe that if the budget is in place on time, it always makes a community feel better,” Ms Eisenbise said.
“We’re not going to be in this present situation forever, and we’ve got to be careful now and into the future to ensure the overall well-being of this shire and its people.”