Push for regional status for Yarra Valley

Yarra Ranges Councillor Fiona McAllister 159535 Picture: JESSE GRAHAM

By Jed Lanyon

Yarra Ranges councillor Fiona McAllister has called on the state government to reclassify Yarra Valley communities as regional in a bid to see Covid-19 restrictions eased following low numbers of cases in the area.

“We have no active cases in the Yarra Valley at the moment and over the course of the year have consistently had very low numbers more reflective of regional Victorian numbers than metropolitan Melbourne numbers,” she told Star Mail.

“The reason for this is apparent, our towns are isolated from Melbourne, we remain a rural community with a low risk lifestyle.”

Ms McAllister said she was compelled to make the request following the state government’s announcement on Sunday 6 September to extend Stage 4 restrictions for metropolitan Melbourne until at least 28 September.

Currently, regional Victoria has been under Stage 3 restrictions and could see some rules lifted as soon as Sunday 14 September.

As of Sunday 6 September the DHHS reported just 14 active coronavirus cases in the Yarra Ranges, while 139 (55 per cent) of the Yarra Ranges 252 total cases have been linked to Kilsyth’s Kirkbrae Presbytarian Homes, over 30 kilometres away from the township of Healesville in Ms McAllister’s Ryrie Ward.

Of those 14 active cases, the majority are located in towns on the fringes of the Yarra Ranges Shire boundary, according to COVID Live.

COVID Live lists five active cases located in Mooroolbark, three in Lilydale, three in Chirnside Park, two are located in the 3166 postcode in the Belgrave area, one is located in Kilsyth and one in Narre Warren East/North.

The Ryrie Ward postcodes of 3777, 3770 and 3775 have accumulated just 17 total coronavirus cases to date.

“The greater threat to us is the impact on health, wellbeing and economy,” Ms McAllister said. “Our children deserve to return to school not only for their education but for the very important social connection it provides.

“Our businesses deserve and must be allowed to operate in a context of zero active cases or they will continue to disappear. The many people struggling with job loss, extreme financial stress, mental health issues and great anxiety absolutely deserve a shift in restrictions which offers only benefit and no risk.“

Prior to the second wave of Covid-19 restrictions, Council announced an expected -14 per cent contraction in Yarra Ranges’ economy, and a forecast 20.5 per cent decrease in Yarra Ranges’ Gross Regional Product, equating to a loss of around $1.35 billion.

“I am also joining with the other rural ward Councillors to get the Council to lobby State Government to reclassify the Yarra Valley as rural,“ Ms Mcallister said.

“I urge the community to contact our local state politicians about this and make their voices heard.”

More to come.