Firstly let me say I hope you are all safe and well.
We are very aware of the devastating effects on some towns in our shire like Cobargo who have suffered heavy losses of property, businesses and even lives. Our hearts go out to them and their community. It is still too early to know the real impact on other towns, but we stand with everyone side by side, right across the shire because we are all in this together.
For the Merimbula township it has certainly been a roller coaster ride since our last email before Christmas. Just when the town was looking great, people were rolling in and the town was filling up, we have been hit with this disaster.
Whilst we accept that the Tourist Evacuation notice given on the 4th of January was absolutely the best thing to do for the safety of our visitors, and to be able to manage resources effectively, the effect of this on our local business community is devastating as well.
We have had accommodation providers go from being fully booked from December-February to now being empty and taking cancellations as far ahead as March. This obviously has a flow on effect to our businesses in town, cafes, restaurants and attractions and will put further pressure on our businesses and local economy that we can ill afford.
The reality is that we are not out of the woods yet either, with more bad conditions forecast for this Friday and Saturday. At this stage they do not appear to be as bad as last week, but that could change at any stage.
Please be aware that the Chamber will be working pro-actively to support our businesses as much as possible under these circumstances and we have listed a number of ways which we are going to try and support you.
Information and Safety
As a Chamber, we are not in a position to advise people about their safety and we will take our advice from the various agencies. We will pass this information on unedited and as quickly as possible through the Our Merimbula Facebook page.
The main sources of information we will be relying on are
1. The NSW Fires near me app. We suggest everyone downloads a copy of this to their phone
2. NSW Rural Fire Service Facebook page
3. Merimbula Rural Fire Brigade Facebook page
4. Bega Valley Shire Council Facebook page
5. Live Traffic website
Open for business
Whilst we understand that each business have to make their own decisions about when to open and when to close, we do encourage as many of you that are able to open your doors when it is safe to do so. We really need to have the town open for business whenever we can.
Obviously it is not going to be as busy as it should be this time of the year, but there are still locals and emergency service people around town who will be looking for services. It might just be as simple as them being able to come down town for a coffee, get a haircut, picking up medication or supplies, but whatever they are looking for, we need to be open for them.
The Chamber will be promoting the fact that we are OPEN FOR BUSINESS so please make sure to post to your social media when you are open and include the headline OPEN FOR BUSINESS, use the hashtag #openforbusiness and make sure to tag @ourmerimbula so we can share it for you.
Yesterday we held a meeting to set up a sub-committee to work on the recovery of our economy in town. The following people attended. Nigel Ayling, Virginia Neave, Andrew and Chelsea Campbell,
Travis White, Alan Hasaio, Jill Warnock, Julie Novotny, Mitchell Nadin, Lee Salisbury, Jessica Porter and Christine Kaine.
The main focus and discussion of the meeting was
We will work together on a Shire wide recovery, not just Merimbula
We have already set up a Facebook Group called Support South Coast Businesses to allow people outside the area to support local businesses. We are also working on a website which will have the ability to sell gift vouchers for local businesses and accept donations
Moving forward we will be looking for opportunities to bring people back when it is safe to do so and working towards some large events including the potential of a Australia Day Long Weekend festival. We will also look for opportunities to work on other conferences and festivals in the months ahead including Eat Merimbula in March
How we can utilise the media and celebrities with ties to the coast to help get the word out when we are open for business
The need for locals to buy local, especially in recover mode and when insurance claims are made.
We will share more information about these projects as they progress
South Coast Business Support
The Merimbula Chamber has taken the lead and joined forces with the Bega Valley Business Forum which represents the combined Chambers of Commerce for the whole shire. We believe we need to stand alongside our other Chambers and work together to support ALL of the businesses in this shire.
To get this happening we have set up a Facebook group called Support South Coast Businesses. The goal here is to get local businesses to promote their products and services in the group so that other people outside the area can support their businesses in whatever way they can. If you have a product or service that you can sell online, this is even better.
If you are a business owner, please join this group and share informaiton about your business. Please also share it with your networks so they can support the businesses involved.
Support beyond our shire
As you have probably already noticed, the out pouring of support from people around the country, and the world that has followed on from these disasters is amazing. There are people raising money, donating good and services to people effected by the fires. One which is particularly relevant is
Bushfire Emergency accommodation in Canberra
This group was formed to provide a central portal for people seeking emergency accommodation when fleeing the fires until more coordinated responses were in place. They are also many other offers to assist people affected by the fires, so please visit this group for more information
FUNDING AVAILABLE FOR SOME BUSINESSES AFFECTED BY THE FIRES
Disaster recovery grants of up to $15,000 are now available to primary producers, small businesses and not-for-profit organisations in LGAs affected by the NSW bushfires that have occurred from 31 August 2019.
To find out if you are eligible view the LGAs affected and the Guidelines below
Please note: Loss of income is not eligible under this scheme
It seems most major banks are offering some sort of support to affected businesses. Please check with your bank for details.
Some utility providers may be offering support as well. Please check with your electricity, gas, internet providers for more information.
Your local chamber will be advocating on your behalf on a range of different issues, with the appropriate agencies including
Chambers are also working together at Local, Shire, Regional and State levels to lobby government including requesting support for Loss of income, where not covered under insurance
We will keep you up to date with more information as it becomes available
Mental Health Support
We are currently looking at options for the provision of Mental Health support for people effected by the situation. Please stay tuned for more update
Of course we would like to thank all of the agencies, businesses, and people who have helped our community through the last week. A huge thank you goes out to the NSW RFS, Bega Valley Shire Council, and other Emergency Services. Both Pambula and Bermagui Surf Life Saving Clubs also provided significant support during this time.
At a local level, we are vey thankful to the clubs that threw open their doors as evacuation centres including Club Sapphire, Merimbula RSL, Tura Beach Country Club. We realise this is supposed to be their busy time of the year too and they will be suffering loss of revenue as a result, but they have provided an amazing service to protect the people in our community.
To all of you, we will be forever in your debt.
You can keep up to date on further updates through The Merimbula Chamber of Commerce group
Of through our Facebook Page. https://www.facebook.com/OurMerimbula/
We hope the weather forecast for this weekend does not cause any further impact to our people, towns or businesses so that we can all get back to our families and businesses.
What ever happens, please stay safe and know that your Chamber is doing our best to support you.
President – On Behalf of the Chamber Executive Committee