Business owners are being urged to share their experiences of working through drought, ahead of a Tamworth contingent attending a summit on Friday.
The national drought summit in Canberra will be a “wonderful opportunity for businesses to speak up and let us know what they’re going through”, Tamworth Business Chamber president Jye Segboer said.
He’s confident the summit will lead to some positive action, and has his own idea of what form that could take, but wants to hear from businesses in all kinds of sectors.
“It’s really important through times of drought that not just the farming sector but also businesses speak up and talk about the problems and situations that they’re facing,” he said.
“Let us know what those challenges or risks are that [you’re] facing, and give us an opportunity to see how we can help but also put forward a submission to the federal government at the upcoming drought summit.”
The Chamber wants to hear from people by Thursday, via phone, email or Facebook.
Tamworth regional councillors and staff will be attending the summit.
How to help
Mr Segboer said the Chamber was staying “open-minded” about what could be proposed to help businesses, but he believed two keys were infrastructure and retaining skills.
“What other key infrastructure projects should we be looking at? We should be fighting for those infrastructure spends, particularly around water security,” he said.
“We know Dungowan Dam got overlooked from a state government perspective when there was federal money on the table; we don’t want to see that happen again.”
He said many hospitality, health and beauty businesses were “suffering”, a “real concern” at a time of year when many were looking at putting on apprentices.
“We … want to look at ways that we could incentivise businesses to continue to put on apprentices as the school year finishes, and ensure that we keep those young people in our region and keep them employed within our region.”
Peel Valley Group sales director Steve John is one businessman with a success story and some tips to share.
“Business is off by at least half – in some of the smaller towns like Wee Waa, more than that,” he said – but the business had decades of experience in how to prepare for tough times.
“In the early 1980s, we shed significant numbers of staff but, as the skills shortages have made a bigger and bigger impact in rural and regional Australia, we’ve recognised some years ago that the issue with doing that in this day and age is that you simply won’t get those people back,” Mr John said.
“The only way that you’re going to get through a drought – in good enough shape to be there for your customers at the other end of it – is to make sure you’ve put significant reserves aside so you can keep the people right through the drought …
“We’re surviving this drought quite well, we’re not losing any of our skills, and we’ll be ready to go when the drought breaks.”
He said he sympathised with new businesses who couldn’t be expected “to have much in the way of reserves put aside as yet”.
“There’s going to be a lot of people that are unfortunately having to lay off staff … and I really feel for them, because this could be the end of their businesses if they can’t get those people back.”