I write in response to the Victorian Roadmap and the easing of COVID-19 restrictions, more specifically how the roadmap relates to the Mornington Peninsula.
I have written on several occasions to you raising the concerns of my local constituents on this matter and note that my previous letters to you have not received acknowledgement or a response.
Since the announcement that regional Victoria would move to step three of the roadmap, my office has been inundated with calls from local residents. Concerns are being raised with my office covering four major areas:
- the common belief that the Mornington Peninsula should be considered as regional
- the impact to mental health of locals and;
- the detrimental impact to businesses and industries
- the consistently low cases of COVID-19 on the Mornington Peninsula.
I would also note that the Mornington Peninsula has now achieved zero new cases for more than 14 days.
Residents of the Mornington Peninsula and many Victorians view the Peninsula as being a regional location and cannot understand why the Peninsula continues to be included in the Metropolitan Melbourne lockdown. Under the current roadmap, the Mornington Peninsula is not receiving the same conditions as regional neighbours. This has led to a disproportionate impact on local communities, which despite being a significant distance from Melbourne, are being treated the same as Melbourne and inner-city suburbs. This disproportional impact has been detrimental to local industries and businesses in our community.
A point of frustration commonly raised with me, is the comparison between the Mornington Peninsula and the City of Greater Geelong. At time of writing, the Peninsula currently has two active COVID-19 cases, whereas the City of Greater Geelong has three. I also note that the City of Greater Geelong has had 364 total cases of COVID-19, compared to the Mornington Peninsula’s 163. Yet currently, the City of Greater Geelong has moved to the third step of their roadmap, yet the Mornington Peninsula remains classified with Greater Melbourne. I again note that the Mornington Peninsula has now achieved zero new cases for more than 14 days.
Hospitality and tourism are vital parts of the Peninsula economy and the continued classification of the Peninsula as metropolitan Melbourne is having a significant negative impact on these industries. The consideration to allow Mornington Peninsula businesses to open safely, with COVID-safe plans, alongside their coastal and regional counterparts, before any tourists are to visit from elsewhere in the future, gives local residents the opportunity to better assist in the regional and state-wide economic recovery, as well as provide businesses time to prepare for tourists in the future.
Aside from hospitality and tourism, multiple other sectors of our local economy are struggling, including our local tradies. Recent surveys indicate my electorate of Flinders has the highest proportion of tradies in this nation. The Peninsula also has one of the highest rates of holiday homes in the state and these houses and properties require regular maintenance.
During recent months, increased rain and the lack of access for people to attend their properties on the Peninsula has seen an increase in debris and undergrowth, particularly in coastal and regional communities. As summer approaches and this undergrowth continues to dry, the risk of fire increases exponentially.
Peninsula residents and holiday home owners diligently prepare for bushfire season each year and local tradies can provide assistance for those who cannot travel to second homes, as well as those in need of support locally, if they are allowed to do so. Amending the status of the Peninsula would allow necessary safety works to be undertaken in preparation for the declared bushfire season.
Many locals have raised with me that a precedent has been set for the realignment of local government areas, with Mitchell Shire being reclassified to regional Victoria as their case numbers have reduced. The Mornington Peninsula has not had a new case of COVID-19 for some time and is closing in on zero cases by the day.
I understand that the Mayor of the Mornington Peninsula Shire Council, Councillor Sam Hearn, has also written to you today, outlining considerable concerns the Council has in relation to local restrictions. Many of those concerns have been echoed to my office.
I would note that in his letter, Mayor Hearn has highlighted that on 19 August 2020, Mornington Peninsula Shire Council received a received a letter from Victorian Chief Health Officer, Professor Brett Sutton, in which according to Mayor Hearn, stated that “Stage 4 restrictions were implemented across the Department’s metropolitan region, including all metropolitan local government areas (LGA). This includes Mornington Peninsula, despite the nomenclature of being a Shire. All non-metropolitan region LGAs were not included in the Stage 4 restrictions.”
This statement has led Mayor Hearn to summarise that Professor Sutton “clearly stated the rational for our inclusion in metropolitan Melbourne’s Stage 4 occurred purely because of lines on an administrative map – and not because of any COVID 19 specific considerations.”
I add my support to the calls from local residents and Mayor Hearn for the Mornington Peninsula Shire to be considered as regional, bringing the Peninsula in line with every other coastal tourism region in Victoria.
By every definition, the Mornington Peninsula has met or surpassed all thresholds the rest of regional Victoria has achieved, including no new infections for 14 days. As the Mayor has said, that would mean we not only met the definition for steps two and three of the regional roadmap, but also moving down to the last step of restrictions. However as regional Victoria is at step three, I recognise that the alignment of third step restrictions would be a reasonable and appropriate step for the Mornington Peninsula.
The Mornington Peninsula is in so many ways regional, local businesses and industries are suffering, the mental health of local residents is being negatively impacted and most importantly, by every definition, the Mornington Peninsula has met all thresholds the rest of regional Victoria has achieved, including no new infections for 14 days.
I would appreciate that the significant concerns of local Mornington Peninsula community are taken into account when considering how the Mornington Peninsula is categorised for the purposes of Victoria’s roadmap to reopening
Greg Hunt MP
Federal Member for Flinders
CC: Mr Chris Brayne, Member for Nepean