Ovens & Murray Advertiser
No end in sight
Council builds case as ongoing fires, smoke in region continue to hit economy
INDIGO Shire Council is building a case for assistance from state and federal governments as ongoing bushfires in the region continue to keep visitors away, costing the local economy tens of millions of dollars.
Mayor Jenny O’Connor was among around 120 representatives from bushfire affected communites across the country that participated, via phone, in a roundtable forum hosted by by the Federal Government yesterday to discuss the impact of bushfires so far this summer.
Cr O’Connor said the forum - convened by Senator Michaela Cash, Minister for Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business and attended by Prime Minister Scott Morrison - indicated the vast devastating effects on so many communites and the sheer enormity of
“We didn’t get a chance to put forward any specifics, but we have been promised one on one calls so we can have more meaningful conversations,” she told the Ovens and Murray Advertiser.
Cr O’Connor said Indigo Shire Council’s tourism team is surveying businesses to quantify the impact the ongoing bushfire crisis is having, but noted “it’s already clear it is unprecedented and we continue to be seriously affected”.
“The CEO and I visited a number of Beechworth businesses on Tuesday and they are all hurting,” she said.
“Some have said they’ve already lost 50 per cent of their summer takings in the first two weeks of January...it’s a very dire situation, and there’s not immediate relief is sight.
“While we haven’t been physically impacted by the fires and the State of Disaster has been lifted, there are still ongoing fires in the region and heavy smoke, often at hazardous levels, so people don’t want to come here at present.
“It’s a dilemma. “Many of our small businesses are struggling, with some owner-operators going without a wage to pay staff, while there simply isn’t work for many casual employees which will have devastating consequences.”
Cr O’Connor said income support for casual staff was one of the issues which needs adressing by government.
She said one of the key things she was looking to raise with the Federal Government is the need to assist affected businesses with cash flow.
“Tax relief around GST would also help,” Cr O’Connor said.
“Assistance from both state and federal governments will be needed.”
Longer term, Cr O’Connor said more strategies were needed around recovery.
“We’ll be looking to see if we can get grants to fund projects that help build our economy and can bring more people here,” seh said.
“One example would be the Ned Kelly Alive project in Beechworth which could be a big draw card.”
Cr O’Connor said the Federal Government had last year announced its Building Better Regions Fund will be used to assist areas ravaged by drought.
“We would like to see something set-up similar for areas affected by bushfires,” she said.
Tourism North East has said it is working closely with Bushfire Recovery Victoria (BRV), Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions (DJPR), Victoria Tourism Industry Council (VTIC) and Visit Victoria to help get the region back on its feet and it will be announcing the details of recovery campaign activity very soon.
For up to date Bushfire information go to emergency.vic. gov.au