DOES anyone understand, or care, that NSW border businesses are crippled by the Victorian and NSW government’s restrictions, limitations and border closures?
That is the question Wentworth Shire Regional Tourism group president, Brian Beaumont wants answered as he this week highlighted that border businesses rely on easy travel across the bridge to access products and services.
“Many NSW businesses have already closed, or are on the brink of closure, due to the enormous downturn in business trade because our Sunraysia community is precluded from normal pre-COVID movement,” Mr Beaumont said.
“We have not had any COVID cases and yet we are being punished by both states. The ongoing circumstances applied by both governments as they flex their ‘muscle’, look to compete, look to outsmart, and show their driven parochialism is killing our businesses.”
Buronga’s Varapodio Estate operator Donna Scopelliti is keen for politicians and bureaucrats to get the message that “we are one community in the way we operate”.
“I normally have a thriving café and retail outlet in Buronga,” she said.
“We have been operating for 15 years. It’s an established business that three years ago took $17,500 in July − last July it was $7570, this year $5000.”
Donna noted that her ability to maintain her staff’s employment is seriously jeopardised as Victorians are precluded from travelling across the bridge.
“Victorian’s are 90 per cent of my clientele. The population base in Mildura supports my business. Our local community is small by comparison.”
Rachel Hill, licensee at Wentworth’s Crown Hotel has experienced a 51 per cent decrease compared to same dates in 2019, this was exacerbated with a 67.4 per cent decrease in turnover since the start of July.
“The viability of our local businesses relies on being able to trade freely with our locals from both sides of the border,” Mr Beaumont said.
“We don’t want to be able to travel to Cobar or Dubbo. We just want our customers to be able to come 30 kilometres for a meal, a drink, or a shop. To live our lives. Without patronage from all of our locals, we can’t survive.”
Mr Beaumont said that it’s not only hospitality and retail that are affected.
“Ashton McKenzie of Mildura Paddle Steamers based in Buronga has seen a sustained decline from 33,000 passengers in 2018-19, to 24,000 in 2019-2020, to 20,000 in the past year,” he said.
“Local accountant, Rob Verstappen is worried about the trend of struggle he sees in local businesses.”
As president of Wentworth Shire Regional Tourism group, Mr Beaumont said he is hearing of many businesses that have not survived or that are seriously considering if they can continue.
“It would appear decisions in relation to border bubbles are made in isolation without consultation between the states with restrictions enacted that severely impact residents and business,” he said.
“The result being a bubble in name only. To be a genuine border bubble consultation and agreement between States must occur, where residents within the bubble regardless of state of residence, live, work and operate within the same rules and restrictions.
“That way business will have capacity to continue to operate. We all understand the need for COVID to be managed with the safety of all in mind but the NSW Victorian ‘border bubble’ needs to be reconsidered so our small and medium-sized businesses can survive.”
By John Dooley.