As Queensland holds firm on its hard border closure many businesses in Northern NSW are crying out for help from the NSW government. Labor is calling for the NSW Liberal-National party led government to provide $45 million COVID-19 grant program while the Master Builders Association (MBA) is calling for the Queensland Premier to come to the negotiation table.
The recent Lismore City Council survey about the hard border closure with Queensland revealed that it has adversely affected 98 per cent of the more than 300 people who responded.
‘The biggest impact was on families, with 69 per cent saying the border closure meant they could not see their close relatives, followed by 38 per cent nominating access to medical service and 25 per cent nominating employment,’ according to a recent press release from the council.
Member for Lismore Janelle Saffin urged Deputy Premier John Barilaro more than a week ago to extend the program, which he announced on a visit to Albury, to northern businesses doing it tough.
Now she says the delay in implementing a package shows an ‘unresponsive’ Berejiklian government has little regard for northern border communities.
‘These are NSW residents and the NSW government is responsible for them and to them,’ Ms Saffin said.
‘Regardless of which government made the decision to close the Queensland-NSW border, the negative impacts on struggling local businesses on the Northern Rivers and Northern Tablelands are no different to those experienced by businesses near the NSW-Victorian border.’
Ms Saffin called for the program to cover all businesses located in the Local Government Areas within the bubble zone, including Tweed Shire, Kyogle and Tenterfield Shire. She said it should also be extended to other businesses in the Lismore City, Richmond Valley, Byron Shire, Ballina Shire and Clarence Valley Local Government Areas.
Ms Saffin stressed that she was asking for extra targeted support for businesses over and above pre-existing support measures.
This program would help with local businesses’ day-to-day costs, keep their doors open and keep people in their jobs,” she said.
The NSW Business Chamber, representing businesses across the Northern Rivers and New England North West, the Master Builders Association of NSW Northern Rivers and the Northern Rivers Joint Organisation all support what I am calling for,’ Ms Saffin said.
Last Thursday a meeting called by the Queensland and NSW Master Builders Association (MBA) in Tweed Heads saw the Cross Border Commissioner James McTavish and MBA executive director Brian Seidler addressing the 150 strong crowd. The NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian then filled in for her deputy, who was unable to attend, to listen to concerns for the industry who say they have close to $200m worth of projects that are grinding to a halt.
‘There is significant economic impact on the industry,’ said president of the Tweed Masters Builders Association, Peter Leotta.
‘There is around $150m worth of residential projects and approximately $50m of council tenders have stalled or have to be retendered,’ he told Echonetdaily.
Mr Leotta highlighted that the impact is not just on the building industry but is now impacting the broader economy as people are unable to get into their homes and have to balance unexpected increases to the time they are renting and their mortgages this reduces their capacity to spend.
‘One of the recurring pieces of feedback was that there were so many Gold Coast companies right down to mum and dad tradespeople and they felt the NSW premier felt more care for their industry than their own premier did,’ said Mr Leotta.
He said that the NSW premier had committed to take the issues to cabinet the next day yet neither the Queensland or NSW letters and emails from both the MBA and people in the industry had even been acknowledged by the Queensland government. However, following a live stream to Channel 9 during the event ‘we received an email from Qld Premiers office acknowledging the emails and letters,’ said Mr Leotta.
‘The Queensland MBA have not even bee able to get Queensland premier to come and sit at the table. We are trying to do everything we can – please come to the table to communicate with the industry who are prepared whatever we need to do to get the industry moving. It is more than just the industry, people are unable to get into their homes and are being are in high distress and they are doing it really tough.’
Put your money on the table say Labor
Labor Shadow Minister for the North Coast Adam Searle said the delay demonstrated that the National Party had simply forgotten about struggling communities in the northern border region.
‘While we welcome the $45 million package for the southern border region, and recognise the difficulties being faced by communities there on both sides of the border, John Barilaro and the Nationals need to explain why the same consideration has not been given to communities on the north coast,’ Mr Searle said.
‘The north coast communities are clearly facing significant challenges and the NSW Government should be providing support and solutions.
‘When will the Deputy Premier answer calls from the community and provide this assistance to those on the northern border?’