'The situation is still dire': Businesses struggle to stay afloat after the storm

While welcome rain has landed on bushfires burning since the new year, the heavy falls are creating further issues for the local economy, already hit hard by the mass evacuation of summer tourists in January.

Merimbula Chamber of Commerce president Nigel Ayling said struggling businesses have received no financial support, due to not being directly burnt by fire, even though he estimated as many as 95 per cent are between 30 and 70 per cent down on profits.

"The situation is still dire, so we are approaching all levels of government at the moment because some businesses won't make it to next summer," Mr Ayling said.

Merimbula received 59.6mm of rain since Sunday morning, with 42.8mm falling between Sunday morning and Monday morning alone. The heavy rain forcing the closure of shellfish harvest areas along the coast by the NSW Food Authority on Tuesday morning, with the Merimbula Lake areas closed due to the rainfall trigger being reached and the Pambula River areas shut due to a drop in the water's salinity level.

Chair of the NSW Farmers' run Oyster Committee Caroline Henry said the bushfire is already creating issues for the industry. Picture: Rachel Mounsey

Chair of the NSW Farmers' run Oyster Committee Caroline Henry said the bushfire is already creating issues for the industry. Picture: Rachel Mounsey

Chair of the NSW Farmers' run Oyster Committee Caroline Henry said extra nutrients brought by bushfire debris into the water systems had already created algal bloom issues.

Ms Henry said, added to cashflow issues, the full environmental effect of the post-fire period may not be felt by the industry for months.

In January, the NSW Department of Industry held discussions with members of the oyster industry on the need to prepare for potential impacts of rainfall runoff from the fire grounds over the next 18 months. As a result the department increased water monitoring and turned to the Tasmanian oyster industry to learn from their experiences around the impacts of ash runoff.

Australian Hotels Association CEO Stephen Ferguson, who visited the region during the bushfire crisis, said it was difficult to put a dollar figure on what has been lost since the tourist evacuation, adding that there was a concerted effort by many groups to lure visitors to towns like Merimbula over the Easter holidays.

Mr Ayling said small towns all along the NSW coast will be competing with each other for Easter tourists.

"It's not as simple as throwing money at the problem, there's no quick recovery for businesses. It's going to be tough going forward," Mr Ayling said.

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