This week marks the adoption of the first Budget of the new council and my first as Mayor of the Goondiwindi region. I'd like to comment specifically on the creation of a COVID-19 Community and Economic Relief Package that will target available financial assistance to the industries and community groups who have been most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. This is a whole-of-region package that has been purposely designed to keep cash flowing locally, to secure and create jobs, and to ensure that our community across the region can continue to thrive. The package will feature a range of measures targeted to support local businesses and community groups, from fee waivers to increased funding opportunities.
One such measure will be the temporary amendment of council's Procurement Policy to ensure that all purchases of up to $5000, from $2000, will be bought locally where available, and that increased weighting will be given towards local suppliers on purchases above this amount up to $200,000. While council has always prioritised purchasing locally, increasing the scope of its Procurement Policy will provide additional opportunities to local businesses while maintaining the balance of value to ratepayers.
In this financial year to date, council's local spend was $39 million, so I am particularly pleased that this amendment will further support even more local businesses. In addition, council has also resolved to halve all building and planning application fees within the region for the new financial year. This is a targeted measure to really encourage new builds, developments and home improvements - as the construction sector employs more than 400 people across the region, we have to keep our tradies and local hardware stores in business and, in turn, spending more money locally.
On a separate note, this fortnight I attended a Yelarbon Community Consultative Committee meeting to address a range of topics within that community. A sub-group of that committee recently guided council through the completion of the GrainCorp Silos at Yelarbon, and the next steps of that project will now be to upgrade the silo viewing area to include whole-of-region tourism promotion, along with the general beautification of the site. During that meeting I was also able to receive updates from local community groups and begin to formulate a collaborative plan to reduce the presence of Cereus Cactus locally.
Finally, it was my honour last week to welcome the Governor of Queensland to our region on behalf of residents. His Excellency the Honourable Paul de Jersey AC met with several community groups and, while numbers unfortunately had to be limited due to the current restrictions, I highly commend the generous hospitality and excellent facilities provided on the day by both the Customs House and the Goondiwindi State School.