A business-led initiative aimed at restoring the jobs and small businesses that hold communities together in bushfire affected towns heard about the Snowy Valleys region’s challenge when mayor James Hayes and Tumut Regional Chamber of Commerce’s Natalie Randall attended a roundtable in Canberra on Wednesday.
BizRebuild, chaired by General Sir Peter Cosgrove and members of an advisory committee, including Business Council of Australia Chief Executive Jennifer Westacott and President Tim Reed, heard first-hand from around 50 mayors and local businesses from bushfire devastated communities across the country.
The program aims to utilise the resources of Australia’s big business to help smaller business in fire-affected areas.
Business Council of Australia members have given more than $33 million in donations, and millions more in in-kind support.
Mr Cosgrove said the roundtable heard the theme of disaster and setback repeated again and again across local communities.
“Our job is to get money and action on the ground as fast as possible. We are not going to be bogged down by bureaucracy. We are not going to ask you to fill out complicated forms. We are not going to ask you to jump through numerous hoops. I want to make this as easy as possible,’’ he told the group.
The meeting heard from communities, many in drought, how the bushfires had resulted in 100 per cent of holiday bookings evaporating, businesses shutting, and jobs disappearing. Others said their agriculture and forestry industries had been decimated.
Mayors said there was a desperate need to get cash and credit flowing back into their local economies, tourists returning, and larger companies buying more from regional businesses.
Cr Hayes said Snowy Valleys differed from a lot of other communities, where tourism had been the main industry impacted.
While this region’s tourism is suffering, there’s also forestry, agriculture and horticulture industries that have been severely impacted.
“The roundtable talked about getting some major infrastructure projects happening, to get the economy going, which is exactly what we’ve been saying,” Cr Hayes said.
“They asked for some ideas, and we put forward the Brindabella Road, as well as other projects we’ve been discussing, things that will hopefully kick-start the economy.
“I think the roundtable showed we were on the right track. We got the message across that it will be a long rebuilding process in our region, across a number of industry areas.”
The BizRebuild initiative aims to:
• Get people back into work as soon as possible and businesses operating again
• Match people with jobs, providing them with tools and other equipment
• Ensure locals have access to rebuilding work in their communities
• Re-establish businesses so local economies can recovery
• Rebuild a sense of community pride and spirit by rebuilding state-of-the-art community facilities, including community halls, and sporting facilities, such as sporting clubs and grounds.