But Ms Rayner said this should be a choice, and not because other opportunities have been removed.
She said: “As soon as it became apparent that everyone would not be able to share full access to the voting options, then the elections should have been paused, or we should have found a way where the opportunities for all to vote were equalised.
She added that it “should not be acceptable” that residents cannot vote in their local polling station without having to isolate for 14 days, when the rest of the population is out going to the pub, shopping and even socialising in gardens.
A previous version of the DHSC guidance, introduced on March 8, limited visits out of care homes to residents of working age.
It was updated last week, dropping restrictions preventing people over the age of 65 from taking trips outside the home.
It followed a legal challenge by the group John’s Campaign, which argued that the Government was acting unlawfully by imposing a blanket ban regardless of the health of the individual.
The group said at the time that it wants to see the 14-day self-isolation requirement amended.
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A suburban street in Sydney’s south was flooded by police after shots were fired and a stray bullet struck a home in a shooting overnight.
Residents in Park Street, Campsie remain startled, unsure why their street was targeted about 10pm yesterday.
One bullet hit the top of resident Georgina Geha’s home.
“I heard two big bangs,” Ms Geha told 9News.
“I thought at first it was someone drunk, playing knock and run … it was scary thinking that just a few inches above, my brother was sitting on the upstairs lounge.
“That could have been a whole different story today.”
Witnesses told 9News they heard shouting from outside a nearby unit block.
One woman was so scared by the incident she grabbed her young children and hid.
Police combed the street with torches last night, searching for cartridges from two rounds.
“It felt like an army was walking through,” Ms Geha said of the police presence.
“We don’t know who the target was or why it happened. It’s scary, it’s so close to home.”
Police investigations are continuing.
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Western Australia Premier Mark McGowan says the tropical cyclone bearing down on the state’s coastline is the fiercest of its kind “seen in decades”.
Fast-moving Cyclone Seroja was upgraded to a category three and recorded winds of 170/km on Sunday evening, as emergency services warned residents from Carnarvon to Lancelin of impending danger.
Seroja was maintaining its intensity as it approached the coast, but was downgraded to category 2 at 11pm with sustained winds near the centre of 100 kilometres per hour with wind gusts to 140 kilometres per hour.
The core of tropical cyclone Seroja is moving inland southeast of Geraldton. Wind gusts to 170 km/h were reported near Kalbarri during landfall, but the cyclone has now weakened slightly.
WA’s historic One Mile Jetty has already been ripped apart by the cyclone, with one witness saying “she just went under” around midday and that the jetty was “getting hammered”.
WA’s Department of Fire and Emergency issued a red alert for people living along a 450km stretch of the coast between Carnarvon and Kalbarri, warning them their lives and homes are at risk as tropical cyclone Seroja gathers momentum.
Seroja was travelling at around 65 kilometres per hour, and significant impacts are expected to extend inland through to Wheat Belt communities overnight.
The BOM says the cyclone will weaken as it moves further inland on Monday but is still likely to result in damaging wind gusts, particularly to the north and east of the track.
Kalbarri, a resort town on WA’s coast, recorded a 170 km/h wind gust at 7:03pm local time and has seen 111 mm of rain since 9am.
“Conditions are quickly deteriorating, with damaging gales currently occurring between Denham and Kalbarri and stronger winds yet to come along the coast,” the BOM said.
Mr McGowan said at a press conference people caught in the red zone were faced with a “very serious threat” and the government expected “significant damage”.
“Tropical Cyclone Seroja is nothing we have seen before in decades,” he said. “People need to act to stay safe.
“Stay inside and shelter in the strongest, safest part of your house or evacuation centre. Keep your emergency kit with you.
“Stay away from doors and windows and keep them closed. Stay indoors until the all clear is given by authorities.”
Anyone in the red alert area is urged to stay inside, activate their emergency alert plan and stay tuned in to updates.
“Now we need that assistance from the community. Stay inside tonight. Don’t even think about coming out until tomorrow,” WA Police commissioner Chris Dawson said.
Cyclone Seroja is expected to bring damaging winds, heavy rain, abnormally high tides, and coastal flooding, sparking fears dozens of homes are at risk of going under water.
Department of Fire and Emergency Services Commissioner Darren Klemm warned residents communications could become blocked in the area.
“There will be times over the next six to seven hours where you may not have internet coverage, you may not have mobile phone coverage,” he said.
Winds gusts could top 125km/h as far inland as the northern wheatbelt, with Seroja expected to move at a rate of 50km/h when it hits dry land.
The howling winds are expected to hit Esperance from the west at 100km/h.
People in the Kalbarri and Geraldton area can expect to feel the impact of the system from mid to late afternoon on Sunday.
Residents in the low lying areas of Denham could become inundated with water as the weather system approaches.
The Bureau of Meteorology has warned Denham and Geraldton face the worst conditions, which could last for up to three hours.
“Tropical Cyclone Seroja is expected to cross the coast as a Category two system on Sunday evening,” it said in a statement.
“The area at greatest risk is from Denham to Geraldton. Coastal communities and adjacent inland areas between Carnarvon and Lancelin are urged to monitor weather warnings on the Bureau’s website and BOM Weather app, and be prepared to take action.
“Destructive wind gusts of up to 150km/h are expected close to the centre of Tropical Cyclone Seroja as it crosses the coast. The most likely area to experience destructive wind gusts is on the coast from Denham to Geraldton.
“Wind gusts of this strength are very rare for the Central West coast. Winds up to 150 km/h can may cause damage to homes, sheds and significant damage to caravans, trees and increase the risk of power failure.”
The cyclone was upgraded to a category-three storm but is expected to reduce to category two before it makes landfall.
“Seroja is expected to intensify a little during Sunday, possibly reaching severe category-three intensity as it accelerates southeast towards the coast,” the BOM said.
“It is then forecast to weaken back to category two before it crosses the coast.
“The cyclone should weaken (again) as it moves inland on Monday but is still likely to be causing gusty winds east and north of the track, and heavy rain close to the track, as it crosses over the south of the state.”
There are several alerts in place including a yellow alert for people between Carnarvon and Kalbarri – not including Kalbarri town site.
“(They) need to take action and get ready to shelter from a cyclone,” the bureau said.
A blue alert was issued for residents near Cape Cuvier and Lancelin, and inland areas within the Shires of Northampton including Chapman Valley, Morawa, Greater Geraldton, Mingenew, Three Springs, Perenjori and the towns of Mullewa, Coorow and Carnamah.
The BOM said locals “need to prepare for cyclonic weather”, which involves organising food and water supplies, an emergency first aid kit, and portable torches and radios.
The cyclone event off the WA coast threatened to produce two systems.
Odette, originally a tropical low, formed into a tropical cyclone after the two systems circled each other over the Indian Ocean on Thursday.
This is known as the Fujiwhara effect.
Odette was downgraded to an ex-tropical cyclone by the Bureau of Meteorology on Saturday.
“Ex-Tropical Cyclone Odette has weakened and poses no threat of gales to the Western Australia coastline, although Tropical Cyclone Seroja is still active,” BOM said.
Both were forecast to make their way down the coast during the weekend but only Seroja was expected to make landfall.
Meteorologist Todd Smith said the interaction between the two systems earlier this week was very unusual as it had not been seen off the WA coast for decades.
“The last time a cyclone affected the Geraldton area was 1990, and even that was a weak tropical cyclone below intensity,” Mr Smith said.
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There is a “red alert” calling for an 800km stretch of coastline south of Carnarvon to Lancelin.
Communities included in this zone are Geraldton, the shires of Carnamah, Coorow, Chapman Valley, Dandaragan, Irwin, Mingenew, Morawa, Northampton, Perenjori, Shark Bay and Three Springs.
“You are in danger and need to act immediately,” WA Premier Mark McGowan said on Sunday afternoon.
“This is a very large storm that is posing a very serious threat. Lives and homes are under threat.”
People in red-alert areas must stay at home or inside an evacuation centre.
Evacuation centres are open in Port Denison, Carnarvon and Denham.
Western Australia Premier Mark McGowan.
Tropical Cyclone Seroja will continue to impact the area until midnight, with each community expected to experience the worst of the weather for about three hours, the weather bureau’s James Ashby said earlier on Sunday.
Residents of Denham and Kalbarri are likely to experience gales and destructive winds and, if Seroja tracks south, Geraldton may also be impacted.
Abnormally high tides, heavy to intense rainfall, flash flooding, dangerous surf and beach erosion are among the dangers.
Wind gusts and heavy rainfall could be seen as far south east as Esperance, Mr Ashby said.
The WA Country Health Service said Geraldton Hospital will continue to treat emergency patients during the cyclone, but all other appointments have been or will be cancelled.
The Bureau of Meteorology has issued a flood watch for the Wooramel, Murchison, Greenough,Yarra Yarra Lakes, Moore, Hill and parts of the Salt Lake District and Avon River catchments.
A severe weather warning has also been issued for Monday for parts of the Greater Perth, Goldfields-Midlands, Great Southern, and Midwest-Gascoyne regions.
“If you live in South East Coastal and parts of Goldfields, Eucla, Great Southern and Central Wheat Belt districts you need to get ready now for the severe weather coming tomorrow,” emergency warnings said.
“This is a rare weather event for people in southern and eastern parts of Western Australia.”
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Brisbane City Council has no plans to change eligibility requirements for its Go Between Bridge toll credit scheme despite fewer than 1000 residents being granted the subsidy and others hitting unexpected impasses while trying.
Most of the 9000 vehicles that had used the nearby Victoria Bridge daily have re-routed to the William Jolly Bridge, with patronage on the Go Between remaining about 10,500 trips a day and sparking calls from the RACQ for better incentives and discounts for the “under-utilised asset”.
Transport and Main Roads Minister Mark Bailey has weighed in, calling for a loosening of the criteria to more renters and private vehicle owners.
The scheme was rolled out alongside the closure of nearby Victoria Bridge to general traffic in late January as part of the $1.2 billion Brisbane Metro project, to help residents south of the CBD with the potential increased cost of crossing the river.
Those in the 4101 postcode suburbs of Highgate Hill, South Brisbane and West End could be granted the $100 annual credit, which would be added to their Linkt account and reviewed each year for a maximum of four years. The council then pays this subsidy to administrator Transurban.
While 2016 census data showed about two-thirds of the 23,000 people who lived in the area rented, well above the Queensland and national averages of closer to 30 per cent, those applying for the scheme must have six months remaining on a tenancy to be eligible.
Others have discovered utes and vans were ineligible for the credit even if only used for personal travel.
One resident, Lucy Gabb, had applied for the scheme only to hit “brick walls” and be told in emails seen by Brisbane Times that her single-cab ute, along with dual-cab varieties and vans, were not included.
“It’s not that much of a big deal but it was just frustrating because I had to do all the legwork to find out,” she said. “If they had said straight away you weren’t eligible, I wouldn’t have applied.”
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Western Sydney resident, Maria Marino, was relying on her mechanics shop as security after retirement but following an acquisition by the NSW government, her Burwood business is soon to be swallowed up by the new Metro West.
“I’ve had this property for 25 years, father bought it for us, it’s very emotional,” Marina Marino told 9News.
Across Parramatta Road, another local icon, Urban Flower, will soon shut its doors after 48 years in business.
“We’re fourth generation florists, my grandfather opened shop, it’s devastating his legacy is being erased,” owners Winston and Carli Jeffrey told 9News.
Ms Marino and Mr Jeffrey are among hundreds of Sydney residents forced to abandon their homes and businesses to make way for major development projects.
In the past three years 1000 homes and businesses have been acquired across Sydney.
The suburbs hit hardest include Randwick with 89 properties acquired, followed by Parramatta with 62, Luddenham with 33 and Kellyville with 30.
Despite the land now being gazetted, 76 inner west property owners are taking on Sydney Metro for greater compensation, arguing they’ve been priced out of the market.
“You have to spend a million dollars more to find something similar,” Ms Marino said.
“We have no choice but to go to the valuer general, no one would meet with us take our phone calls,” Mr Jeffrey said.
Despite no official settlement being reached, the government is now charging property owners rent until they are forced to leave at the end of June.
Community frustration surrounding acquisitions has prompted a parliamentary inquiry into how the process could be made fairer.
“It is important to have a spotlight on the process … let’s leave it to a parliamentary inquiry to review it,” NSW Minister for Transport Andrew Constance said.
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Gladstone businesses are holding out hope for a COVID-free Easter weekend, as residents in their hundreds turn out for testing.
COVID-19 testing queues in Gladstone’s centre snaked around the block on Tuesday, after authorities closed the hospital testing site and directed residents to a new drive-through facility.
Residents – like Belinda Dennis — said they had waited almost five hours in the 100-car line before receiving a test.
“I think people are very worried,” she said.
“We were here at 8:00AM and it’s ten-to-one now. It hasn’t stopped at all since that time, there have been no breaks at all.
“No drink or toilets or anything like that, they just started to bring them in now (12.50pm).”
Jessica Gibson, who had waited for a similar time in a car with her two children, said she was proud of the community effort.
“Sitting here for four-plus hours is not fun but … it’s really good to know that we are in a community that’s working together,” she said.
The Dock Diner at East Shore in Gladstone was hoping COVID-19 fears would be allayed before the weekend.
Team leader Gaylene Smith said the Easter weekend was an important one for the restaurant and often helped to carry it through quieter period.
“It’s very important. We’re on the waterfront, we have the water park behind us and a lot of families with school holidays starting,” she said.
Gladstone MP Glenn Butcher said the extended wait times were a result of the “sheer number of people” inundating the system.
“People really wanted to get in and make sure that they weren’t part of the problem by getting tested, which is absolutely fantastic,” he said.
“But when that happens there’s a lot of people turning up at one time and our system was inundated, people had to wait for a long time.
“At the end of the day they had toilets set up, they were delivering bottles of water and packages of food, so the system took a while to get going because of the sheer number of people presenting.
“Those that have booked will be given priority and we’ll hopefully see a lot quicker and more streamlined process where people can get through and won’t be waiting those big long hours.”
He reminded residents to be patient, stay vigilant and adhere to social distancing despite the city recording no new infections on Tuesday.
“I got a phone call from the police yesterday morning that the police staff were being abused by different people, which is totally unacceptable.
“Those guys are doing the best they can,” he said.
“As the Premier said on Tuesday morning, there have so far been no positive cases of COVID-19 detected in the Gladstone region.
“However, there is a lag between testing and results so it’s more important than ever for everyone to stay vigilant over the coming days.
“I know our local community has a great collective spirit and if we work together and do the right thing, we can come through this and get back to regular life.”
Capricorn enterprise urged central Queenslanders who had their Easter holiday plans dashed by the latest outbreak to rebook locally and support operators through a “critical” weekend for tourism.
“Just as our locals supported the tourism industry through the peak of the COVID lockdown during 2020, we are again asking them to help our local businesses in tourism, hospitality and retail,” CEO Mary Carrol said.
“Our tourism and retail sectors rely upon the peak holiday times such as Easter to make a profit to carry them through the quieter times.”
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Armed with a slide projector and a steely look of determination, Dean Ransom can sometimes be seen wandering the winding roads of Leigh Creek, a small outback town in South Australia’s far north.
Residents of the former Leigh Creek township in SA’s outback are digitising slides and photos
They hope to preserve the history of the area which was originally a tent city
The new Leigh Creek township is undergoing a multimillion-dollar state government overhaul
This unique government-owned town with a dwindling population of just 120 people used to be a bustling hub that coalminers called home until Alinta Energy decided to close its coal mine in June 2015.
Now, Leigh Creek is undergoing significant changes, including reinvestment and the demolishing of houses — for a second time.
About 22-odd kilometres away is the site of the original township, now called “old” Leigh Creek.
The town was established in 1943 as a tent city, where people lived while they mined for coal, despite blistering temperatures.
“Coal was first discovered when they were digging a dam in Copley for the railways in 1888 and it wasn’t until after WWII, around 1940, that they began to mine coal there,” Mr Ransom said.
He said the conditions were “extremely harsh” for the miners and their families.
“They would work six-day weeks very hard in the mines and then come home to a tent that had no air conditioning, no electricity, limited water and even the food supplies were quite often unreliable,” Mr Ransom said.
“So, they all looked forward very much to getting a solid house and a yard and some shops and things that they could actually have a better quality of life.”
A disappearing history
All that is left of the old town is a large barren hole in the earth after it was abandoned in 1983, and a new town built elsewhere.
“In 1976, ETSA [Electricity Trust of South Australia] decided they were going to move the town,” Mr Ransom said.
This was so that coal could be mined where the old town once stood.
“There was a very large consultation program with the community, and they were involved in actually planning the move and planning the new town,” he said.
The new township was dubbed an outback “Hollywood” for its buildings and shiny exterior.
Mr Ransom, a member of the Leigh Creek Old Town Project group, is racing against time to save the old town’s legacy.
“A few of the Leigh Creek residents were concerned they had no way to take their children or their grandchildren back to where they grew up and show them,” he said.
“The only thing that’s left now for those people are stories and memories.
“So, a group of people got together and decided they wanted to collect those stories to make sure that they didn’t get lost to time.”
Mr Ransom’s job is to digitise photographs and documents and store them in an online database.
He mostly works behind the scenes, but sometimes visits peoples’ homes to convert old slides into a digital format.
Mr Ransom is pleading for people not to throw out their precious photographs and slides, but rather to share them with the group before it is too late.
Town auctioned off
When the town moved from its original spot, buildings and other infrastructure were auctioned off in 1982.
Gweneth McCallum’s late husband Trevor McCallum bought a railway station for the price it now costs to almost fill the petrol tank of a small car.
“We were a little surprised because each of them contained an air conditioner, a hot water service, lots of cupboards and the house had a rainwater tank and a clothesline.
“They were made of Besser brick, which was impossible to remove, but they took everything else: all the windows, the doors, the flooring, the framework, the ceilings, the iron off the top. Everything was rescued.”
The couple used a large truck to transport several loads from the old town to their farm, about 300km south of Leigh Creek.
Town’s third transition
In the year following the closure of the mine, the 2016 census showed there was a mass exodus as the population decreased by 55 per cent, which left many houses empty.
Since then, the state government has announced a major overhaul of the town and said it would budget $43.6 million for the project.
Local MP Dan van Holst Pellekaan said the state government planned to demolish empty or asbestos-filled buildings, but leave some standing so the town could still function as a service and tourism hub.
“Approximately 200 houses will be demolished, and they are essentially the ones that are not in a good enough condition to retain anyway,” he said.
“We’re making sure that people who live in Leigh Creek now who currently rent houses will be at the front of the list for the opportunity to purchase them.
“It’s not only about the people who live there it’s actually an important service centre for the pastoral industry, the oil and gas industry, the tourism industry and for about eight smaller surrounding communities.”
The state government’s leases on some of the town’s properties end this year, but Mr van Holst Pellekaan says “if it’s appropriate to extend them again we’ll certainly do that”.
Table tennis champ’s call-out
Residents of Leigh Creek are trying to provide more activities for local children as the town enters its next phase.
Adnyamathanha man Clayton Cruse is a teacher at the Leigh Creek Area School after moving with his wife and two children to the town early last year.
He said his family moved for “an experience” and for his children to learn about the area and their heritage.
Mr Cruse also happens to be a table tennis champion. He began his career in primary school.
“I moved to Alice Springs around 2005,” he said.
“I was working up there and found out they had a table tennis club and joined that and started playing competitively.
“I’d just recovered from a broken collarbone, and the boy was good!”
Mr Cruse is using his table tennis knowledge and championship status to create a table tennis space for the youth.
He posted a call-out on social media for donations of table tennis equipment.
“I was really overwhelmed with the response we got to that just within a matter of days,” he said.
He received donations from individuals, organisations and former Leigh Creek students.
Mr Cruse said there were not many physical activities for the children in the town and that table tennis would be good for their mental and physical health.
“We’ll keep the equipment here at the school, so we’d be able to use it after school hours for the community and during school as well.”
Hope for the future
The marketing manager for Leigh Creek Outback Resort, Emma Ruffles, was born in Leigh Creek and has seen the town change throughout her lifetime.
“It’s been heartbreaking,” she said.
“People that were always living there that I grew up with have left.”
Despite this, Ms Ruffles is grateful for the government’s overhaul of the town.
“I think it needs to happen because there’s a lot of unused resources there and a lot of the houses are full of asbestos and they’re quite damaged,” she said.
“It can be turned into quite a nice community — without driving around as if you’re in a ghost town that’s just been abandoned.”
Ms Ruffles said there had been some negative responses to the plans, but it was important to focus on the positives and the opportunities.
“They don’t realise that the government has worked pretty closely with the community to ensure their livelihoods remain.
“They have an opportunity to have houses to live in and that the town will be cleaned up.”
Later this year, Leigh Creek Energy hopes to construct an underground coal gasification plant.
It plans to heat under pressure the deep underground coal seams at the disused mine and use the extracted gases to make urea, the basic ingredient of fertiliser.
This is something that has been talked about for a long time and not necessarily too many outcomes or answers have been given.”
Leigh Creek Energy said it had been “progressing the project on time and as planned” and was beginning operational activities.
It expects commercial operations to begin in 2023, “which will be carbon neutral by 2023.”
Despite differing views on how Leigh Creek’s future will be safeguarded, the community will do all it can to prevent the outback Hollywood from disappearing for good.
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The federal government has added 16 more flood-affected local council areas to the list of regions eligible to receive aid, bringing the total of local council areas to 63, including 36 which survived the bushfires.
Tens of thousands of people across NSW have been given the all-clear to return to their flood-ravaged homes to start mopping up and rebuilding.
However more than 8000 residents were still cast from their homes on Friday evening as evacuation orders remained in place in certain areas.
Flooding has eased in many parts of the state but orders remain around Moree and the Hawkesbury-Nepean Valley in northwest Sydney.
Those returning to their flood-damaged homes should first check for damage to the roof and walls and ensure the power and gas are off, the SES said.
Red Cross NSW Director Poppy Brown said the coming weeks will be tough for residents, particularly those who survived the bushfires at the start of 2020.
“Our volunteers have heard stories about the distress about leaving homes, livestock and even a change of clothes behind.
“Many of these communities have already endured years of concurrent disasters, from drought, bushfires, COVID-19 and now floods. The impact of this latest disaster is expected to be significant.”
Residents should wear protective gear while cleaning up, have a supply of fresh water and be wary of contaminated floodwaters.
The SES has also started assessing the damage in affected areas, with at least 75 properties so far declared potentially uninhabitable.
The Bureau of Meteorology’s Justin Robinson said the situation across the Hawkesbury-Nepean Valley should ease by Monday and river levels in Moree were quickly dropping.
But Mr Robinson warned that although the sun was out, people should still avoid flooded rivers and be careful this weekend.
“Having high rivers, a sunny weekend, children playing … is a pretty dangerous combination,” he said.
The SES said there had been 12,500 requests for help since last week and 1000 flood rescues.
About 500 SES volunteers remain in the field, supported by hundreds of soldiers who have made their way down from Queensland to help with the clean up.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the floods had washed away a “way of life” for many regional businesses, who face another round of rebuilding after last summer’s bushfires.
The federal and NSW government will each pay 50 per cent of flood recovery costs.
Grants of up to $75,000 will be available to affected primary producers while small businesses can access up to $50,000.
Meanwhile the search for an elderly woman continues after police pulled her car from the swollen Barrington River on Thursday.
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Up to 200,000 accommodation vouchers worth $100 each will be available to NSW residents as the Berejiklian Government looks to protect jobs when JobKeeper ends on March 28.
Announcing a $51.5 million economic package today, the government said it was investing in initiatives designed to re-ignite live music and tempt more people back into Sydney’s CBD.
The vouchers will be allocated on a first in, first served basis and are expected to be rolled out in June to help during the sector’s quieter winter period.
Vouchers will only be eligible to be used at accommodation providers in Sydney’s CBD.
NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet said the scheme is designed to help people spend a little longer in the CBD before heading home.
“Thousands of businesses in the Sydney CBD lost significant revenue with so many people working from home, when you add in almost no overseas or interstate travel, it’s been a tough 12 months for them,” Mr Perrottet said.
“This scheme will encourage people to explore more of what the Sydney CBD has to offer, and spend a little bit more on the way through, and support local jobs.”
In addition to the vouchers a further $24 million will be spent on a live music support package to encourage more bands to perform in Sydney’s CBD.
Tourism Minister Stuart Ayres said supporting the live music and business events industry was vital as NSW continued its economic recovery.
“Everyone has missed live music, the industry is coming out of hibernation, and this package will ensure our much loved venues are there to host the gigs people want to see as they celebrate NSW emerging from the pandemic,” Mr Ayres said.
“There will also be support for business events and more money to market local tourism attractions as part of the Love NSW platform.
“Our success in containing COVID-19 means we can now focus on assisting these vital industries get back to business.”
Details for accommodation providers interested in taking part in the scheme will be rolled out in the coming weeks.
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