The Property Council of Australia has welcomed the Victorian Government’s decision to remove the indoor mask mandate for office workers and called for further measures to help revitalise the CBD.

The Victorian Executive Director of the Property Council Danni Hunter said it was an important first step towards the bringing Melbourne’s CBD back to life following the most recent lockdown.

“This is an important move towards the reactivation of the Melbourne CBD”, she said. “While lockdowns prohibit many from visiting the city, mask mandates and density quotients slow the return of workers to the CBD and are a handbrake on our local economy.

“Our iconic retail and hospitality sectors as well as many other small businesses rely on visitors to the CBD and we need to do everything we can to encourage people back to the city and enjoy all the wonderful things Melbourne has to offer.”

The announcement followed the release last week of the Property Council’s monthly Office Occupancy Survey showing Melbourne’s CBD occupancy had slumped to 26 per cent of pre-COVID levels, 42 per cent behind Sydney and 45 per cent behind Brisbane over the same period.

Ms Hunter said the Victorian Government now needed to get thousands of public sector workers back into the office to boost the revitalisation of the CBD.

“The Government can play a leading role in getting the CBD going again. Victorians are relying on their government to lead by example and help Melbourne recover its shine by getting thousands of public sector workers back to the office.”

She said while the removal of restrictions was a welcome development, ongoing uncertainty around the potential for further restrictions was a significant risk to the Victorian economy.

“This is our fourth go at recovering from lockdown here in Victoria, with every lockdown setting Melbourne back months and wiping out the gains of this year so far. The CBD is only as strong as its people and will not recover without people returning to the city to live, work and play.

“The role of the private sector is equally as important and we need the business community to take proactive action to encourage their employees back to the office for a greater portion of the working week.”

Ms Hunter also called on the Victorian Government to work with employers to ensure further mask mandates were avoided in the future, noting that office environments are often safer than regular settings.

“We know offices can welcome their employees back in a safe and responsible way. Offices and other workplaces have instituted their own COVIDSafe plans and are playing an important role in supporting contact tracing through QR codes and workplace rosters.

“Office density is often of a lower risk than normal settings, with the office often having density ratios of one person per ten-to-twelve square metres, far above the standard one person per four-square metres.

“When masks come off they should stay off unless necessary as we can’t continue to go through this cycle as we have been doing and not expect the CBD and the economy to suffer as a result.”

Media contact: Eric Allilomou M: 0448 291 236 E: [email protected]