Businesses feel economic impact from bushfires, smoke

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Local businesses are feeling the effects of the NSW bushfires with the smoke haze and related conditions prompting closures, loss of custom and reduced spending.

CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA – JANUARY 05: Smoke is seen near the Department of Defence, Russell Offices on January 05, 2020 in Canberra, Australia. Smoke haze across Eastern Australian cities has become common in recent months as bushfires continue to burn. Hundreds of fires continue to burn in NSW, Victoria and South Australia, with the Australian Defence Force now called in to help with firefighting and rescue efforts. 14 people have died in the fires in NSW, Victoria and SA since New Year’s Eve. (Photo by Rohan Thomson/Getty Images)

CEO of the Canberra Business Chamber, Dr Michael Schaper, said outdoor, construction and seasonal businesses are being hit hardest by the conditions as people opt to stay home.

However, he said it is important the community continues to “keep supporting local business” as well as the South Coast region.

“I think as soon as the opportunity arises, we need to go back and support areas like the South Coast,” Dr Schaper said. “But also, people are inclined to stay home rather than go out. It would be good if you got a mask and go out here as soon as you feel comfortable.”

The deterioration of air quality earlier in the month saw a number of national institutions close their doors, including Questacon and the National Gallery of Australia, while the National Zoo & Aquarium was also closed at one point for the safety of their animals, staff and visitors.

Dr Schaper said businesses faced a tough decision when it came to being open for business or closing their doors due to the conditions. He said the Chamber has created a fact sheet to help negotiate the current situation of Canberra region businesses affected by fire or smoke.

The Chamber has also made an offer of desk space to work from, free of charge, to businesses from impacted areas. For more information, call 6247 4199.

Meanwhile, a number of industries are expected to suffer as a direct result of the NSW bushfires, with the NSW Business Chamber suggesting ramifications could be felt for “years to come”.

Damian Kelly from the NSW Business Chamber said a key factor is the “sheer magnitude of the devastation and the time it will take to regenerate, rebuild and the time to get back into places to do so”.

“It’s a significant impact no doubt about that. We don’t know the full extent and won’t know for some time. We do know that there will be significant ramifications for months and years to come.”

Mr Kelly said they are aware of several industries that will suffer as a result of the bushfires, such as damaged apple orchards at Batlow, and South Coast tourism at Bateman’s Bay and beyond.

“It’s not only their tourism sector but the flow-on effect,” he said, which includes local coffee shops, supermarkets and butchers as visitors tend to spend locally for supplies.

“They are going to need a lot of support and people spending money in the area.”

The NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) issued a statement late last week encouraging tourists to return to the Far South Coast and areas of the Shoalhaven.

People wishing to take advantage of the tourist areas are strongly encouraged to contact their destination/accommodation providers before setting off. Areas that were heavily impacted by the fires remain accessible to local residents only.

Visitors are also asked to stay up to date on conditions by checking the NSW RFS website or Fires Near Me app, as well as monitoring roads via Live Traffic NSW.

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