Regional NSW impacted by drought, business chamber survey

TOUGH TIMES: More than 80 per cent of businesses have been impacted.
TOUGH TIMES: More than 80 per cent of businesses have been impacted.

FOUR out of every five businesses in regional NSW are feeling the financial pinch from the ongoing drought.

In a survey by the NSW Business Chamber, 84 per cent of businesses indicated they were impacted by the drought, 43 per cent of which said the current drought was “far more severe” than previous droughts.

About one in three affected businesses said the viability of their business was at risk due to the current drought conditions, and more than two in three affected businesses indicated they would scale back investment and reduce capital compared to previous plans.

On average, affected businesses indicated they may have to reduce staffing levels by 1.5 employees. 

The chamber’s New England North West manager, Joe Townsend, said this was the largest number of responses to a survey the chamber had ever received, which “truly demonstrates the depth” of the drought’s impact.

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Ultra Lubricant owner Richard Neill has shops in Gunnedah, Moree and Wee Waa. In the last three months, he’s really noticed the downturn.

“We run accounts with all our customers and the debt collecting side of it is getting harder and harder,” Mr Neill said.

“The majority of them are farmers, and we don’t want to ring up to put the squeeze on them.

“At the same time, there is a downturn in actual sales, so it’s tough all round.”

Adam Stacey from Forsyths accounting firm said there was a lot of financial uncertain among regional businesses

“As a predominately farming community, a lot is driven by that industry,” Mr Stacey said.

“With the uncertainty when the rain is going to come, everyone is tightening their belts.

“Most businesses we deal with are seeing some sort of effect, and that's across a wide range of businesses.”

Mr Townsend said while there was no silver bullet apart from rain, the chamber had suggested a range of measures including a one-stop shop to connect businesses with existing government programs and NSW government funding to allow council rate relief for drought-affected businesses.

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