Councils facing big GDP hit from bushfires and Covid-19

Local Government Areas hit by the 2019-20 bushfires and Covid-19 restrictions may experience GDP declines of up to 23 per cent, a new report suggests.

SGS Economics and Planning said one of hardest hit of all bushfire-affected LGAs is East Gippsland where GDP for 2019-20 is set to decline by $1.466 billion (or 22.6 per cent) compared to the 2018-19 fiscal year.

In tourism-focused LGAs, the Augusta-Margaret River Shire’s GDP is set to decline by 15.1 per cent or $752 million because of Covid-19 travel restrictions.

LGAs where major airports are located have also been hard hit by Covid-19 restrictions, with Hume’s GDP taking a 13.3 per cent hit ($11.8 billion) because of reduced operations at Melbourne Airport.

SGS suggests it could be three to four years before bushfire affected regions recover to the 2018-19 level, with recovery times in coronavirus-affected LGAs dependent on the speed with which normal domestic and international travel services resume.

The SGS report, COVID-19 and summer bushfires: The economic impact on your suburb and pathways to recovery includes an interactive map to enable councils, businesses and community groups to gauge how their regional and local economies are performing.

In a further blow to financially burdened Victorian councils, the State Government has announced that casual council employees will be ineligible for its new JobKeeper-style support package.

Municipal Association of Victoria President Coral Ross said the exclusion of local government from both Federal and Victorian government support programs was a slap in the face to tax-paying council employees.

“It makes no sense that frontline workers employed by a private, not-for-profit or Victorian Government organisation can access tax-payer-funded support payments whereas those performing identical roles for councils are ineligible,” said Cr Ross.