As drought ravages NSW, the financial impact is being felt in farms, hotels and shops across the state.
Just over 79 per cent of the Riverina is in drought, with an additional 20 per cent classed as drought affected, while 44 per cent of the Murray region is in drought and another 56 per cent drought affected.
Just over 88 per cent of Riverina businesses said they were impacted directly or indirectly by drought conditions, according to a new NSW Business Chamber survey.
That figure is four per cent higher than the state’s figure. In the Murray region, that figure is 83 per cent.
Meanwhile, 82 per cent of Riverina businesses and 82 per cent of Murray businesses experienced a decrease in sales or revenue.
Rachel Whiting, CEO of RDA Riverina, said there was “one silver lining of the survey”.
“It also highlights to the general public that droughts hurt more than farmers – it hurts everyone,” Ms Whiting said.
It also highlights to the general public that droughts hurt more than farmers – it hurts everyone.Rachel Whiting, CEO of RDA Riverina
“We know our region thrive in agribusiness, but if those businesses are not making as much money or are not as productive as usual, then less money will be spent in our shops and cafe.
“It’s common knowledge but it’s not something people generally think about.”
The two regions have so far avoided being classed as in severe drought but industries are struggling: 94 per cent of retail or wholesale traders surveyed reported being affected by the drought, 98 per cent of the agriculture, forestry and fishing industry, and 87.5 per cent of accommodation and food services businesses.
Ms Whiting said that while the Riverina looks green, water supply and water in the soil were different matters.
“So i’m sure people are a bit cautions about what’s coming next,” she said.
The survey had more than 1000 respondents across the state, highlighting the need for immediate practical assistance to support NSW communities.
Stephen Cartwright, NSWBC chief executive, said the impact on primary producers needed to be front of mind.
“However, the drought is also affecting regional businesses at all parts of the supply chain, including retailers, manufacturers, construction, and tourism operators with revenue down across the board,” Mr Cartwright said.
“While there are no silver bullets apart from rain, the chamber would like to see a suite of practical and targeted measures implemented to support businesses.”
These include the following:
- A drought-focused business concierge service to help connect non-farm businesses with existing government programs. The service would also provide access to financial counselling and specialised business advisory services in town halls and community centres across regional NSW.
- Clear policy statements from the ATO and Revenue NSW on the availability of tailored payment plans to assist businesses in meeting their tax obligations.
- Australian and NSW Government funding to allow local governments to provide council rate relief for drought affected businesses.
- Financial relief modelled on the Farm Household Allowance, made available to family enterprises facing equivalent financial hardship.
- Prioritising drought resilience infrastructure investment in drought-affected communities.
“Australians are known for their generosity and the importance of a fair go,” Mr Cartwright said.
“These communities provide us with the essentials so it is only right that we all chip in to assist them through this difficult period.”
Drought survey: August 2018