The combined impact of the recent bushfires and ongoing drought on Australia’s economic growth and productivity in the year ahead remains unclear. However, in its’ response the Morrison Government has set aside the priority of a budget surplus in favour of bushfire relief packages and made available a $2bn fund along with significant announcements regarding support for community and business recovery.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison & Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham have announced a $76m support package for the tourism industry. The Tourism Minister and both National and State Tourism agencies are now working to encourage visitation right across the fire affected Eastern seaboard including the Mid North Coast.
The combined Mid-North coast chambers have met recently and are actively promoting domestic tourism in their regions as well as support to our small business community through buying local in favour of online or out of area shopping. During February each of the Chambers will meet with its local council to identify critical areas where the Government funds already provided can support business recovery.
In a further Business Recovery package the Morrison Government has announced Business Recovery Grants up to $50k, Concessional loans up to $500k and tax relief in the form of 1st Quarter BAS returns in Bushfire affected postcodes deferred until 28th May 2020. The Government has also set up a Small Business Bushfire Support hotline at: www.business.gov.au or by calling 132846.
The NSW Business Chamber in collaboration with local chambers has continued to be active in gathering important feedback in relation to the impacts and measures needed for recovery. With a direct line of communication to State & Federal Government agencies this continues to be a key element of feedback on what is required and better tailoring support to those businesses in need.
Despite some good rain in January the Eastern states remain largely drought affected and like many others Port Macquarie Hastings council has now invoked Level 4 water restrictions which begin immediately for residents and on 25th February for commercial users.
High water use businesses whose operations and livelihood are impacted may be able to apply for exemptions. To obtain more detailed information businesses are advised to go to the Port Macquarie Hastings Council website and search “Level 4 Water Restrictions”.
At a national and state level long term initiatives to provide for better water security in the form of expanded desalination plant capacity, and new dams (Dungowan, Tamworth and Mole Creek, Tenterfield) were announced by Water NSW in late 2019. The reported infrastructure expenditure is to be $10bn over the next 5 years.
Many local government areas including Port Macquarie already have very modern water treatment facilities capable of producing pure water for domestic use from reclaimed sewage. In the case of the Hindman Street plant it can produce up to 3.7ML per day of pure recycled water. Currently this reclaimed water has limited uses due to NSW Government Health Department restrictions.
An immediate and practical response by local and state governments to the ongoing drought and predicted drier climatic conditions in the future would be to allow the use of reclaimed water for domestic uses in the existing reticulation network.