Southern Downs Regional Council says it is concerned that the exclusion of unvaccinated people from some venues from 17 December will cause division in a community already working hard to recover from drought, bushfires, floods and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a statement issued on Friday, Council acknowledged correspondence received from members of the community expressing their dissatisfaction with the Queensland Government’s proposal to exclude unvaccinated people from certain venues.
“Council appreciates the complexity of this issue and on 23 November, Mayor Vic Pennisi wrote to the Queensland Premier Annastacia Palasczuk seeking clarification on the proposed State Government COVID-19 regulations effective 17 December 2021 and asking the Premier if there was another way of dealing with this issue,” it said in a statement.
“Council strongly supports the need to keep the Southern Downs community safe and will continue to act on the advice from the Chief Health Officer, however is concerned that proposed changes will cause division in a community already working hard to recover from drought, bushfires, floods and the effects of the global pandemic.
“Council has no intention of imposing similar mandates to those proposed by the State Government on Council facilities unless it is required to do so by the State Government leaving Council with no choice in the matter.”
It said the Council was obligated to follow any directives issued by the Chief Health Officer.
Council CEO Dave Burges commended the community for their support of each other.
“In addition to other pressures recently faced in our region the Southern Downs community have done a commendable job at supporting each other through these difficult times and moving forward Council hopes that we can continue to remain united and respectful of varying opinions within our community,” he said.
In his letter to the Premier, Mayor Pennisi stated that while Council fully understood and supported Ms Palasczcuk’s efforts to protect all Queenslanders, the position proposed would “severely impact smaller communities”.
“Many local governments are currently severely impacted with skill shortages and there is a concern that if the restrictions proceed as proposed, those local government areas, such as ours; will be detrimentally affected,” he wrote.
“Premier, I am concerned about the impact the proposed restrictions will have on my community. Council is acutely aware of the need to protect our community from COVID-19, however, Queensland has been able to maintain very low rates of transmission even with the number of people unvaccinated. As the numbers of residents fully vaccinated increases, is there a need for the planned level of mandates? Is there a risk that we are creating a divide within our communities based on vaccinations? As a result, what will be the short, medium and long term effect on individuals, families, friends and more broadly, the community as a whole?
“Premier, I understand you have all Queenslanders’ welfare to consider and I appreciate the difficult task you have in navigating this once in a lifetime pandemic for our State. However, as Mayor of the Southern Downs, and listening to the feedback I have received, I respectfully request due consideration be given to the restrictions proposed when the State hits 80% double vaccinated as there may be other alternatives.”