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August 5, 2020

THE Wimmera’s peak economic development body is calling for patience, understanding and consideration as the region adapts to renewed restrictions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Wimmera Development Association is working with support services, state government departments and economic development officers at councils to ensure businesses receive and understand what stage three lockdown orders mean for them. 

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced the changes to restrictions earlier this week. They are effective from midnight on Wednesday, August 5. 

Wimmera Development Association executive director Chris Sounness called for patience as people adapted to the changing environment. 

“Many businesses adapted quickly before, and they will do it again. But for many, it won't come without its challenges,” he said. 

“We will see impacts that weren’t as evident the first time around. 

“The region desperately needs rain and this is adding strain to the agriculture sector that has, until this point, performed strongly. 

“For many industries, this is a complex time. The ripple effects of stage four restrictions in Melbourne flowing onto the Wimmera Southern Mallee is not insignificant. 

“I encourage people to spend locally and support local businesses if you can – look local before you look online, support local and give local the best chance of emerging strongly from this period.” 

The state government and some councils are offering grants for businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic

Mr Sounness encouraged businesses and individuals to access the following services: 

  • The Department of Health and Human Services provides real-time updates online. With relation to businesses, economic development officers at councils are assisting to disseminate the latest information relating to the stage three lockdown 
  • The Rural Financial Counselling Service can assist businesses and individuals access government packages while helping people to understand their financial position and prepare budgets or action plans; phone 1300 735 578 
  • Uniting Wimmera’s support line – 1800 195 115 – can connect people with a range of support agencies and services locally

Mr Sounness warned the region should not rely on its location and “luck” to avoid further impacts of the pandemic. 

“The impacts of this lockdown – whether it’s changes to working and schooling environments, restricted movement and access to friends and family, or even wearing a mask – is not necessarily a six-week prospect. It impacts everyone – and impacts everyone differently,” he said. 

“I encourage businesses to make themselves aware of the financial and wellbeing support available to them. Looking out for the mental health of our community during this period is paramount and a little kindness could go a long way.” 

Individuals and businesses breaching lockdown orders face hefty fines.