Despite vigorous discussion on the need to help local hospitality businesses, Kiama councillors were unable to come to agreement on what stance to take on the matter of the proposed NSW Outdoor Dining Policy.
The opt-in Policy, being championed by the NSW Small Business Commissioner, was trialled last year by seven councils. It adopts a fee free approach to reduce red tape and incentivise the sector, which is seen as activating town centres.
In Council’s November Meeting Business Paper, the Director Corporate & Commercial Services, Rob Owens, recommended telling the Commissioner that Kiama did not support the waiving of fees.
The reasoning given included Kiama currently having an efficient approval service, $61,000 in revenue would be lost, and Council would still have the costs of managing its footpath without the money to do so.
When the councillors were unable to decide to agree with this recommendation, or an opposite one moved by Councillor Matt Brown (and even a hybrid version put by Councillor Neil Reilly which would only drop the fees for businesses operating after 5pm), a decision was made not to make any submission.
Cllr Brown expressed disappointment the Kiama & District Business Chamber had not been able to add any input to the discussion in time for the close of submissions on 23 November.
The following day, the Chamber released a statement, “The Board concluded that not enough information was available to take to our members and the Board’s position (of asking for a deferral of the decision) is reflected in the fact that Council could not come to
a decision at this time.”
Council charges $2.70 per chair per week in the town centre and $1.95 in outlying areas.
“It is a very low rent for use of the extra room,” said Councillor Andrew Sloan.
The Policy is expected to come into force in the new year, and with Council having the opportunity to opt in.