Yarrawonga-Mulwala “the most impacted businesses in Australia” says NSW Business regional manager

By Jared Loughnan

A NSW Business regional manager believes businesses along the Murray River would be the most impacted in the country as a result of the recent cross-border closure and further Stage 3 restrictions in Victoria. 

Business NSW Regional Manager for Murray-Riverina Andrew Cottrill told the Yarrawonga Chronicle that cross-border closures continue to create havoc with border businesses, their employees and customers with tightened border zones despite most areas having no active COVID-19 cases.

“It’s frightening. This border closure mark two has dealt a sledgehammer blow to our regional business communities. 

“The inability to get to work, to access our customers, and to go about our daily lives makes the NSW Victorian border business communities the most impacted in Australia.

“Businesses will be burning through cash reserves at an alarming rate, and we are calling on governments to changes to the border permits and to deliver support funding very quickly to these struggling businesses.” 

More than 1,200 businesses have responded to a NSW Business survey about the impact of the new border closures which was sent out to border communities from Mildura through to Albury.  

Alarmingly the survey showed businesses on average were experiencing a decrease of $8,000 in revenues per week. 

Mr Cottrill said they are using the survey results to convince the government to immediately change the current draconian cross-border restrictions.

Community leaders including the Wodonga City Council Mayor Cr Anna Speedie this week called for the border closures to cease due to Stage 4 and Stage 3 restrictions being enforced in Melbourne and regional Victoria respectively.  Mayor Speedie believes with no movement in Victoria particularly from Melbourne harsh border closures are now not necessary.  

In fact, people coming to the border area from Sydney and affected areas of NSW, where movement is not restricted, arguably pose an even greater threat now. 

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, who believes she is not being too tough on border communities, said the success of tougher restrictions in Victoria would guide her next steps on border closures.

“We will know in the next few days what the (traffic) flow is like as a consequence of the shutdown in Melbourne which will have a positive impact on the way we can manage the virus here in NSW,” she said.   

In the meantime, Business NSW will immediately seek a cross-border continuity of employment permit as part of a list of recommendations after their business survey found more than thousands of people along the local border area are unable to attend work due to the border closure rules.  

The proposed permit would be available to residents of the original border bubble to
enter NSW for work reasons only and to NSW-based permit holders to work in the initial postcode-based zones.

Business NSW is also seeking support funds from the government with the creation of a border closure economic impact grant program.  The program would be designed to support and sustain impacted businesses in eligible border postcodes for grants of up to $10,000 to assist with cashflow and recovery efforts.  Businesses would be required to demonstrate revenue losses against a corresponding period to meet a pre-determined threshold level. 

Victorian Leader of The Nationals and Shadow Minister for Regional Victoria and Decentralisation Peter Walsh said border closures continue to have a massive impact on families, businesses and communities.

“As a resident of a Murray River community, I understand well how much we rely on our interstate neighbours – and them us.

“Victorian Nationals MPs have been working constructively with our interstate counterparts to help individuals and businesses through the closures.

“We’re all prepared to do our bit to stop the spread of this deadly virus, but in some cases there’s a safe, workable solution to help border communities go about daily life.

“Ovens Valley MP Tim McCurdy worked on behalf of his community to get doctors and nurses back to work at North East Health in Wangaratta after changed restrictions stopped 80 staff from crossing the border.

“We’ve also delivered certainty for families with a daily bus service for children in NSW to get to class in Victoria and ensured NSW restrictions don’t stop Victorian residents fishing from the banks of the Murray River.”

Mr Walsh said there’s still more work to be done.

“Victoria’s freight sector is grinding to a halt as a result of confusing advice on testing and isolation that’s seeing some trucks turned back at the border.”

Mr Walsh said regional Victoria is reluctantly re-entering Stage 3 COVID restrictions this week.

“Main streets of our country towns will struggle to survive this second round of shutdowns.

“Many more country Victorians will lose their job. Many more of our small businesses will be forced to close their doors.

“Our cafes, restaurants and pubs in country towns that have not recorded a single case of coronavirus but now face six weeks of shutdowns are questioning why we are wearing the disastrous consequences of the Andrews Labor Government’s mismanagement of this crisis.

“The next six weeks will be some of the most difficult we have ever faced as country Victorians,” he said.