Border closures are having significant economic impacts on different industries in the Northern Rivers, with the construction industry suffering on multiple fronts while the tourist industry appears to be bouncing back.
‘The border closure is having enormous impacts on businesses both large and small, with ripple effects occurring throughout our communities,’ said Tweed Shire Mayor Katie Milne.
This is reflected in the comments of other local mayors David Wright from Ballina Shire Council, Simon Richardson from Byron Shire Council, and Deputy Mayor of Lismore City Council Darlene Cook.
‘Leaders in the northern NSW border regions have been meeting twice a week with the NSW Cross Border Commissioner and state government representatives to highlight concerns and suggest solutions,’ said Ms Milne.
Yet the lack of movement from the Queensland government is causing significant frustration, with Ballina mayor David Wright pointing out that ‘nothing’s changed’ and that the Queensland government isn’t even responding to letters from the 84 companies and 900 workers who have sent letters asking for exemptions.
‘There are $150m worth of building projects that are being affected in the Northern Rivers region,’ said Mr Wright.
‘There is one company in Lismore that is about to lay off 60 of their 200 workers. Companies are struggling to get materials and supplies across the border because of the restrictions.’
The border restrictions mean that workers, consultants, and supplies can’t move across the border in the way they normally do.
Ballina to Gold Coast one region
‘Northern NSW does not have enough consultants (architects, soil testing, engineers, surveyors) for the industry,’ said president of the Tweed Masters Builders Association, Peter Leotta.
‘From a building perspective the Gold Coast and Northern Rivers are one. For example there is only one stair maker in the region and they are on the Gold Coast. So any house being built that needs stairs on the Northern Rivers can’t get them. This effect flows on because the plasterer, tiler etc can’t come and do their job until the stairs are in. This has a flow on effect on local economy. Consumers are not able to get into homes because the work has stalled or slowed. This means homeowners are having to balance the mortgage, and a longer than expected rental, and that leads to increased costs. This has a broader affect across the economy even outside the building industry. People aren’t getting into their homes, so they aren’t buying goods to furnish homes and because of increased costs they will have less to spend in the broader economy.
‘There is a $150m impact within the building industry both directly and indirectly. This is likely to grow if there aren’t changes or we don’t go back to previous measures.’
Chris Cherry, Deputy Mayor of Tweed Shire Council told Echonetdaily that, ‘The biggest issue is that work crews work from Ballina to the Gold Coast and with the current restrictions there are no exemptions for employment. The best thing for our community would be to retain the bubble, but return to the border restrictions we had earlier regarding the borders of the bubble. Essentially this means allowing travel on either side of the bubble for employment, education, health and compassionate grounds. This limits unnecessary travel but allows our communities to interact economically and socially. These restrictions appear set to be in place in some form for a while to come, so we really need something more workable as soon as possible.’
Cr Richardson has said that the group of mayors and GMs had come up with a number of options for easing the restrictions, including that the so-called ‘border bubble’ be extended to the northern border of Ballina.
Is the border closure impacting you?
Lismore’s Deputy Mayor Darlene Cook says they are currently trying to get concrete examples of the impacts of the border closure on their local businesses.
Ms Cook is encouraging everyone to fill out the online survey that closes this Friday so that they can take these examples ‘to the MPs and the Cross Border Commissioner.
Business NSW is also conducting a survey for businesses that are being affected by the Queensland border closure.
‘In the case of the Northern Rivers, Brisbane is our closest major city and is inextricably linked to us for trade, economic development and jobs. We have many Northern Rivers-based businesses and workers who service Brisbane, and similarly businesses and workers who live in Queensland and service the Northern Rivers,’ they said in a recent press release.
‘To assist Business NSW in further strengthening our case for a review of the parameters of the border closure we ask businesses impacted to complete the survey – also informing a broader assessment of impact and support requirements.’
Northern Rivers no COVID transmission
With no community transmission in the Northern Rivers, and the continuing significant impact on local businesses, Ms Milne is suggesting that the border should open, and a business assistance package be provided by the NSW state government.
‘Hopefully the NSW state government will recognise the hardship that has been occurring in our region for such an extended period and provide a similar business assistance package as the $45m package recently announced for NSW southern border businesses,’ she told Echonetdaily.
‘The toll on some members of our community is extremely distressing such as disabled children having to chose between family support or medical treatment.
‘All of the Northern Rivers Joint Organisation of Mayors for this region are united in their support for an end to this draconian border closure and a reversion to the former style of border closure originally imposed in March.
‘NSW has very few cases, Victoria is getting under control now and the Northern Rivers has been clear for months so there is really no need for such misery to be inflicted on our communities any longer.’