Coronavirus news: Backslide on plastic, Greens want mining plan moratorium, Darebin’s $10m package, and more

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As progress continues for controversial mining projects, the Greens have called for a halt on all planning measures until a community consultation plan is established to take into account the COVID-19 outbreak.

Abigail Boyd MP, the Greens’ NSW spokesperson for mining coal and gas, appealed for the moratorium on the basis that vital community feedback from public meetings and document exhibition is impossible under current social distancing requirements.

“The current crisis must not be used as an excuse to rubber stamp controversial mining and gas projects such as these,” she said.

Plastic industry capitalises on coronavirus

As pandemic fears spread, the plastic industry is running a successful campaign against single use bag bans by suggesting reusable bags could contribute to the virus’ spread.

Thinktanks and conservative nonprofits, many of whom are funded by petrochemical giants such as the Kochs, published pro-plastic articles with claims that COVID-19 could survive long periods of time on reusable bags and infect store shelves. The majority of the research cited in these articles was funded by the plastic industry, according to Mother Jones.

The industry’s efforts have proven effective in the United States, with Maine postponing its plastic bag restrictions until January 2021 and New Hampshire’s governor temporarily banning reusable bags under a state of emergency.

Property needs government support

State and local governments will have to coordinate with the property sector if the industry has any hope of preserving future developments in the wake of coronavirus shutdowns.

According to Echelon Planning director Mark Woodland, a six-month industrial hibernation in Australia will harm the already downsized development process, which requires multiple years of planning and cashflow to retain employees and contractors.

Woodland advised the government to work alongside the property sector to continue planning and fast track approval processes once the pandemic has passed and production can resume.

Darebin City Council launches $10 million COVID-19 support package

Darebin City Council, located in northern Melbourne, announced its $10 million Community and Local Business Resilience and Recovery Package to assist residents and businesses during the ongoing pandemic.

The package is designed to provide support for vulnerable community members, lessen the financial impact for businesses, and provide critical aid for community organisations.

In addition to the Resilience and Recovery Package, Darebin City Council approved a COVID-19 Financial Hardship Policy to allow residents with fines to opt into an individualised payment plan, or defer payments until mid-2021 without accruing debt.

Learn more about Darebin council’s initiative here.

Lax guidelines on strata buildings dangerous during coronavirus pandemic

Millions of Australians living in strata housing are at a high risk of infection without guidelines or support from the government.

Lawyer Amanda Farmer, a specialist in strata law, warned that with many residents isolating in such close conditions, strata buildings have the potential to foster COVID-19 outbreaks similar to those on tightly packed cruise ships.

“Without actual government directives, key decisions are being left up to individual strata managers,” Farmer said. “There needs to be clear guidelines set out to follow, otherwise there will be a lack of compliance and the virus could really spread given such large groups of people living so closely together.”

Cities block coronavirus facilities despite demand

While confirmed COVID-19 cases continue to grow, communities are refusing to allow testing and quarantine facilities to be built due to neighborhood complaints.

Last week, Connecticut residents successfully petitioned against a drive through testing site just hours after it was announced despite growing demand and surging cases in nearby New York City.

The US federal government faces continuous roadblocks in establishing quarantine facilities for citizens returning home from overseas. In early March, residents in Costa Mesa, California received a court injunction to halt all planning for a facility on an isolated medical campus.

Vital housing projects for vulnerable homeless populations are also under threat in New York, with Queens council member Robert Holden citing coronavirus as a reason to shut down plans for a local homeless shelter.

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