West Wimmera Shire Council Mayor Bruce Meyer has labelled the slows steps out of COVID-19 restrictions announced on Sunday a 'disgrace'.
"We were given no joy at all by that press conference," Cr Meyer said.
"My hope was that it would go back, at a minimum, to stage two ... in areas where there are no active cases.
"Then if an LGA [local government area] had a localised case, they would go back to stage three."
Other Wimmera leaders were less critical of the state government's decisions, seeing the roadmap as an "important step" that will help with social isolation.
Victorian Premier Dan Andrews announced that regional Victoria would transition to a "Second Step" of reopening from 11.59pm Sunday, September 13, with several small changes to the current stage three lockdown.
He said a transition into a 'third step', which he described as society returning to "relatively normal", would required a daily average number of cases across the last 14 days in regional Victoria to be less than five, and for zero cases to have an unknown source.
Mr Andrews said it was "highly likely" regional areas would move to the third step in a "matter of weeks".
West Wimmera shire mayor Bruce Meyer however said a quicker transition out of lockdown was needed and made sense for regions without an active COVID-19 case.
The West Wimmera Shire has no active cases, and has recorded just one case of COVID-19 since the pandemic begun.
The Hindmarsh shire has never recorded a case.
Cr Meyer said easing restrictions was becoming increasingly urgent.
"People are just asking when they can get their life back," he said.
"We've had virtually no cases - I really hoped there would have been a bit more leniency and common sense in the decision.
"We have enough trouble here with the border issues. It's almost like we're getting belted in both directions at the moment."
Cr Meyer lamented that the proposed roadmap to ease restrictions was dependent on numbers across the entire state.
"You're taking a 14-day average across all of regional Victoria. How does that make sense?" he said.
"You could take Ballarat, Bendigo and Geelong out of it, and the rest of Victoria is pretty much okay."
As of Saturday afternoon, there were 102 active cases in regional Victoria. Greater Geelong had 21, Colac Otway 23, Greater Bendigo six, and Ballarat two.
During his announcement, Mr Andrews pointed toward a recent outbreak in Colac, in which one case spread to more than 20 in just days, as an illustration of why regional Victoria was not opening sooner.
"There is no choice but to do this in a safe and steady way," he said.
"I want to get the place open and keep it open. Unless this is done safely and steadily, that won't happen.
"We believe regional Victoria will be able to move to the third step quite soon, a matter of weeks."
Horsham Rural City Council mayor Mark Radford welcomed the "important" emotional impact of being able to see family and friends.
As part of the second step, a maximum of five people from two households are allowed to gather outside for social interaction, and people living by themselves can nominate a person that is allowed to visit their home in a new "social bubble".
"Outside of the business and economic side of things, it is the personal side of how this situation is affecting our families that is really important right now," Cr Radford said.
"Today is Father's Day, and I'm sure a lot of us would like to go and visit our families, especially today.
"Moving to stage two will hopefully bring that opportunity to catch up, even just with a few people at a time.
"This is dragging on a lot longer than we all thought and that is a challenge.
"But this is an important step that is welcome news for the community."
Wimmera Development Association executive director Chris Sounness said it was heartening to see regional Victoria on a different timeline to metropolitan Melbourne.
"All of us that live in the regions can look forward to that, and appreciate that decision," he said.
"I'm not sure what exactly businesses can do moving forward, but it sounds like regional Victoria will get an opportunity to advance before the rest of Melbourne. That is promising."
Mr Souness said the likely emphasis on providing services in an outdoor setting presented a unique development for Wimmera businesses.
"If I were involved in hospitality, I would right now be thinking about how I can have outdoor seating and how to maximise how people gather outdoors," he said.
"Most of the businesses in the Wimmera have limited outdoor space, so we will need to be nimble to make sure Council and businesses are working together to maximise the opportunities presented."
THE NEXT STEPS FOR REGIONAL VICTORIA
The Second Step, current from 11.59pm September 13, 2020 for regional Victoria
- Only leave home for 4 reasons: school or work (if these can not be done from home), care or caregiving, to purchase essentials, exercise
- Public gatherings: up to 5 people from a maximum of 2 households can meet outdoors for social interaction (infants under 12 months of age are not included in the cap)
- Visitors to the home: "Single person bubble" 1 nominated visitor if living alone/single parent (all children under 18)
- Childcare is open to all children
- Schools return to onsite learning from Term 4 with safety measures
- Outdoor exercise and recreation allowed
- Restaurants and cafes open for takeaway and delivery only
- Retail: open, with density and other restrictions, hairdressing open
WHEN WILL REGIONAL VICTORIA MOVE TO THE THIRD STEP?
Subject to public health advice, the Third Step can start when:
- daily average number of cases in the last 14 days in Regional Victoria is less than 5
- there are zero cases in Regional Victoria with an unknown source in the last 14 days