Bush­fires’ heavy toll on lo­cal trade

■ Busi­nesses strug­gle as tourists stay clear

Mansfield Courier - - Front Page - By RHYLL McCOR­MACK

A SIXTY per cent loss in trade – that’s the es­ti­mated fi­nan­cial cost to Mans­field busi­nesses fol­low­ing the State of Dis­as­ter dec­la­ra­tion by the State Gov­ern­ment in the face of the bush­fire emer­gency.

With tourists evac­u­ated from peak camp­ing ar­eas, and many more choos­ing to to stay away, the town has been left empty of its nor­mally bustling sum­mer trade.

From the su­per­mar­kets to cafés, tourism op­er­a­tors to ac­com­mo­da­tion busi­nesses; all have been left with can­celled book­ings, sur­plus stock and – in some cases – no word as to when they will be able to be­gin trad­ing again.

Danny Davis from Mans­field BP said it was the qui­etest she had ever seen Mans­field.

“There’s just not a lot of peo­ple in the town – and be­cause there isn’t, we are just not get­ting the cus­tomers com­ing through – it’s school hol­i­days and there just isn’t any­one around,” she said.

“Nor­mally they are here camp­ing and fish­ing – over sum­mer we have the wa­ter sports bring­ing peo­ple, but they haven’t been com­ing be­cause of the bush­fires – the ones that were al­ready here have been evac­u­ated and a lot of the lo­cal trade have gone back to work.

“We’ve got that much stock build-up at the mo­ment that we just aren’t hav­ing to do or­ders – it’s af­fect­ing every­one all around, from sup­pli­ers to the busi­nesses in town.”

The Mans­field Trav­ellers Lodge has had guests can­cel across the month of Jan­uary.

“It’s dead,” man­ager Julie Web­ster ex­plained.

“All the horse ride book­ings have can­celled, be­cause they aren’t run­ning, and other peo­ple have can­celled be­cause of the fires – they just aren’t com­ing up, and there is noth­ing we can do.”

Corey Lude­man is one of the trail rider op­er­a­tors un­able to get back into the High Coun­try, re­sult­ing in not only a loss of business for him­self, but also those who rely on the flow-on ef­fect of his op­er­a­tion.

“We were at Won­nan­gatta (on an eight day ride) when the fires started up,” he said.

“Now, long story short, there is a blan­ket ban on all state and national parks ba­si­cally from the eastern side of the state pretty much to the Hume – which doesn’t al­low us much – I can’t even ride out our back gate at the mo­ment which is pretty crazy be­cause we can’t do rides.

“We are hav­ing guests ring up and want­ing to trans­fer rides which is hav­ing an im­pact fi­nan­cially.”

Mr Lude­man said with the State of Dis­as­ter now lifted in Mans­field, he was hope­ful of re­sum­ing rides as quickly as pos­si­ble.

“We aren’t in as bad a po­si­tion as some of the oth­ers – we have just fin­ished our eight day ride, so we had a bit of a book­ing gap to rest any­way.”

Out at Gough’s Bay and Sue Max­field, who has run the Gen­eral Store for more than 35 years, said it was the worst sum­mer trade she could re­call.

“It’s gone from 60 loaves of bread a day to three – I’ve got milk backed up till the cows come home,” she said.

“This is the worst sum­mer I’ve ever ex­pe­ri­enced - we all rely on tourism, but this is just one of those un­for­tu­nate things.”

Ms Max­field said that peo­ple had been ter­ri­fied when Watch and Act alerts were is­sued af­ter the Mt Buller and Bluff fires, and campers were told to leave The Pines and other pop­u­lar camp­ing ar­eas.

“You go around and every­one has just left their stuff – there are vans and tents just aban­doned,” she said.

“We have all learnt a lot from Black Satur­day, and when Mal­la­coota hap­pened and all those thou­sands of peo­ple were stranded out on the beach, they weren’t go­ing to take any chances with peo­ple out in Sheep­yard and in The Pines – but they do put the panic of fear into peo­ple.”

One com­mu­nity al­ready fight­ing back is the lo­cal traders out at Jamieson, who have been left stranded with aban­doned streets and no sum­mer trade.

Tak­ing to Facebook, the com­mu­nity has pleaded with reg­u­lars to re­turn, ini­ti­at­ing an ‘I Sup­port Lo­cal Jamieson’ cam­paign.

Tim Arandt, from the Jamieson Brew­ery, has gone one step fur­ther – or­gan­is­ing an of­fi­cial meet­ing with the Min­is­ter for Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment and Small Business, Adem Somyurek, this com­ing Mon­day.

“It’s one of the first of­fi­cial vis­its from the min­is­ter – to Jamieson – in over a decade,” Mr Arandt said.

“He is com­ing up be­cause of what has oc­curred with this State of Dis­as­ter.

“They’ve shut all the camp grounds – and we are nowhere near fires, and what it’s done is killed our lo­cal econ­omy.”

Mr Arandt, who has ex­pan­sion plans for the brew­ery, said it was im­por­tant to pro­mote the lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties from Kev­ing­ton to Mans­field.

“We are go­ing to have a meet­ing at the Memo­rial Hall – we are go­ing to dis­cuss our con­cerns, com­pen­sa­tion, all that’s oc­curred, the con­di­tion of the roads, how we can get more money into the lo­cal com­mu­nity - even il­le­gal deer hunt­ing.”

En­cour­ag­ing all in­ter­ested to come along, the meet­ing will be held at 11am at the Jamieson Memo­rial Hall and will be chaired by Mr Arandt. “This is a for­mal visit,” Mr Arandt said. “We are push­ing for every­one to be there.”

AL­MOST EMPTY: Nor­mally bustling with school hol­i­day and sum­mer traf­fic, the streets of Mans­field are strangely quiet.

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