Coffs Harbour City Council’s people-centred approach to helping the community recover from the impacts of the 2019 bushfires and the COVID-19 pandemic saw the organisation reach the finals of the 2021 NSW Local Government Excellence Awards.
“I have been hugely impressed by the way Council’s staff responded so quickly, compassionately and positively to all the recent disasters that have affected our community – including the most recent Corindi storm event – and I’m delighted that their very hard work and long hours have been recognised,” said Coffs Harbour Mayor, Denise Knight.
Council’s Bushfire Recovery Action Plan 2020-2022 – developed by Community Recovery Officer, Melinda Brooks – was chosen as a finalist in the ‘Disaster Recovery/Emergency Response Management – Population Under 100,000’ Award.
The Bushfire Recovery Action Plan 2020-2022 highlighted Council’s response to the three bushfire events between October and December 2019 and the ongoing support provided for bushfire-affected residents, the wider Orara Valley community and the broader local government area community. The Plan focused on a community-led approach that built on initiatives supported by all levels of government, the community and non-government agencies.
“We’d like to thank the community for their invaluable input and positive participation in the extensive community engagement and collaboration that informed the Plan,” said Ms Brooks.
“It was a multi-agency approach which was generously supported by local residents, the Rural Fire Service (RFS), businesses, the Orara Valley Progress Association, Glenreagh HeartStart, BlazeAid, the Red Cross, The Salvation Army, Life House Anglicare North Coast and BackTrack.
“Also providing vital collaboration and assistance were Resilience NSW, Health NSW, Service NSW, the Rural Adversity Mental Health Program and the Department of Primary Industries. All of these agencies continue to actively provide as the community recovery continues.”
Council’s 6 Degrees team was also a finalist for the top award in the Supporting Local Enterprise category.
6 Degrees began more than eight years ago to help generate new business and job opportunities. Its main purpose has been to facilitate growth opportunities for start-up and established businesses through innovation and entrepreneurialism.
There are more than 6,000 business in the Coffs Harbour local government area, with a large majority considered small or micro businesses.
Council’s Group Leader (Acting) City Prosperity, Dan Heather said the events of the last 18 months – fires in late 2019, floods in early 2020 and the pandemic – had the potential to drain local businesses both physically and mentally, causing huge impact on the local economy, environment, employment and social wellbeing of the community
He said that in response, the team pivoted to become a key ‘one-stop-shop’ to encourage and support all Coffs Coast businesses, during possibly the hardest year many of them have faced.
“This was achieved by providing timely information on the business support available, creating online workshops on a range of topics, developing a support program to assist businesses with COVID-related regulatory needs and producing a local talent directory app.”
“In summary, 6 Degrees supported businesses through difficulties never seen before.
“Despite those difficulties, the team developed innovative activities that have been shared and used by other regions to support their own local enterprises.
“By working closely with local Chambers of Commerce, sharing knowledge and providing resources and connections throughout the local business community, 6 Degrees has become a trusted source for information and support,” Mr Heather said.
The ‘Building an EPIC Stadium for the Future’ project – the upgrade of C.ex Coffs International Stadium – was Highly Commended in the ‘Asset Management and Infrastructure Initiatives (projects over $1.5million)’ category at the 2020 NSW Local Government Excellence Awards. These were not held due to COVID-19, so the trophy was presented at this year’s Awards ceremony.