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The local tourism industry, which has been the backbone of business in the region since the damming of Lake Mulwala post World War II, is experiencing its biggest challenge due to threat of the COVID-19 coronavirus.
On Tuesday, Yarrawonga Health (YH) confirmed their first positive test for COVID-19 in the Yarrawonga region. At the time of the Chronicle going to print YH was preparing a statement regarding the test.
Our three large licensed clubs – ClubMulwala, Yarrawonga Mulwala Golf Club Resort and Mulwala Water Ski Club – were forced to close and with it many people are without work as a result of the Federal Government’s direction last weekend.
The list of restrictions by the government also limits cafes, restaurants and hotels to only serve takeaway and not seat customers. Cinemas, gyms, churches and other place of worship were also ordered to close in order to stop the worldwide virus from spreading in Australia.
Bakeries and butchers are still permitted to open for takeaway only. Hairdressers and other health related businesses are still open for business. Supermarkets, banks, pharmacies, hospitals, doctor clinics, Vet clinics and petrol stations remain open. Before entry, customers or patients are asked to read conspicuous messages at some entrances, in the interests of everyone’s health.
Other businesses in town also taking a big hit include the Yarrawonga Holiday Park. At the time of the Yarrawonga Chronicle going to print, the announcement came through that the Yarrawonga Holiday Park was to close at 5pm on Tuesday.
“We’ve had a lot of cancellations and we had closed the park for Easter but now it is closed effective immediately until further advised,” park manager Shaun Driscoll told the Yarrawonga Chronicle on Tuesday.
“It’s to protect our tourists obviously and doing what the government wants us to do with all non-essential to be avoided.”
With the threat of the coronavirus spreading and subsequent restrictions imposed by federal and state governments, it is important for local businesses to be supported as much as possible according to Chairman of Yarrawonga Mulwala Tourism and Business Doug Evans OAM.
“We don’t really know the effect on business,” he said.
“Clubs are closing until May 31 which will have a major impact on people coming into town, be them holidaymakers or whatever.
“It’s a day-by-day issue from the towns’ point of view. The impact’s going to be major not only on accommodation but restaurants and all other areas of businesses, and not only Yarrawonga Mulwala but right through. It’s a waiting game.”
Mr Evans said it is important for locals to support businesses in Yarrawonga Mulwala rather than businesses outside town.
“That support can be given in various ways, such as takeaway food. The more support the better,” he said.
“If some business is going well, it can rub off onto other businesses. We should try and help local businesses and continue to.”
Mulwala Water Ski Club CEO Peter Duncan said since the club closed its doors on Monday, he has had to let 55 casual employees go and the remaining 25 permanent staff will be kept on in some capacity but he expects will be asked to take any leave if necessary.
“The hardest part is you know their families and see them all locally.
“We have empathy for all our staff and our regular members who will not be able to frequent the venue for some time.
“Staff rely on the club to assist in feeding their families, paying bills and mortgages.
“But we have ensured them they will all have a job once this crisis is over,” Mr Duncan said.
Golf is still on at Yarrawonga Mulwala Golf Club Resort – the 45-hole, largest public access golf course in Australia.
“Golf is still on – the course is still open,” acting CEO Peter Savy said. “The Pro Shop is open. The club’s not open.
“Our on-course accommodation is open and available. But unfortunately, we’ve had a lot of cancellations.”
Golf is also still on at the superb 18-hole Black Bull Golf Club. “We’re open for golf,” head professional James McCully said.
“Golf is open, the driving range is open,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of golf cancellations but we’re most definitely open for golf.”
Mulwala’s popular amusement park Tunzafun in Melbourne Street has closed, following a meeting on Monday.
Park management had been on the front foot with anti-bacteria solutions. “We have anti-bacteria solutions, installed a hand-wash station and also have a spray for all machinery and equipment after each use,” Tunzafun Manager Phil Bott told the Yarrawonga Chronicle last week.
“We’ve done all we can to ensure everyone’s health at Tunzafun. We look forward to people of all ages coming to and enjoying our park.” But sadly, like some other organisations, that can’t be the case until further notice.
Yarrawonga Mulwala Visitor Information Centre is still experiencing a considerable number of tourists. “Visitors are still enquiring about attractions,” Executive Officer Yarrawonga/Mulwala Tourism Noel Wright said.
“We have to follow up what’s open and what’s not and volunteers at our centre have the option of coming in or not. Our number of volunteers is down and our café has closed for now, in line with government directions.”
Moira Shire Mayor Libro Mustica said everyone has a role to play in protecting themselves and others.
“Be a good citizen and do the right thing, check on your neighbour or the elderly and let them know they are not alone,” Cr Mustica said.
“Our Economic Development, Maternal and Child Health and Community teams are speaking with businesses, health centres and residents and working hard to put measures in place to buffer the impact this pandemic is causing.”
Cr Mustica said Moira Shire Council’s Customer Service Centres are still open at this stage however council is urging everyone to use email, website or phone contact first and only visit if the matter is urgent. Visitor Information Centres are now closed as well as the sports stadium in Cobram, the Numurkah Aquatic and Fitness Centre and the Yarrawonga Splash Park.
State Premiers and Chief Ministers agreed that schools will remain open through to the end of the current school terms to support students whose parents choose to send their children to school. However, Victoria’s school break commenced on Tuesday, March 24.
All Leaders have committed to re-open schools at the end of the school break, subject to the advice of the Australian Health Principal Protection Committee.
Businesses who have any questions about the restrictions and assistance are encouraged to contact the Business Victoria Coronavirus hotline on 13 22 15.