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Hawkesbury small to medium businesses literally crying out for help following season of floods

Aug 1, 2022


Over 40 Hawkesbury businesses have put their name to a call for action from the State government to get the same level of support handed out to businesses in flood-affected Lismore, but the organisers say they are waiting for a reply and support from MP Robyn Preston some three weeks after first contacting her.


In a letter emailed to Ms Preston, well known local businesswomen Linda Fenech, who runs the Hawkesbury’s Skin Fitness, said she was “writing on behalf of many small businesses in the Hawkesbury that have been adversely affected by the cumulative impact of multiple recent floods”.


She pointed out that while there was “deserving assistance for those impacted directly by flood waters, many businesses, whilst not inundated by water, have also suffered economically as a direct result of each of these floods”.


Some 42 Hawkesbury businesses have joined the call for State government action and have shared their stories with Ms Fenech. Many of them are heart-breaking.


One said:


“I am hearing impaired and a sole trader. I have been following your posts but too embarrassed to comment. This time I had to as I got done twice by the floods and it’s been tough times.”


“People are struggling to keep going financially,” says Ms Fenech.


“The devastating impact on residents’ mental health cannot be overstated,” she added.


A Hawkesbury business owner tells MPs Susan Templeman and Robyn Preston how it is as she pleads for help


“People are tired, stressed and worried about what is coming next.”


“This adversely affects businesses on top of the existing pressures due to the pandemic and earlier extreme weather events.


“If the Hawkesbury loses some of these businesses, there will not be replacements to provide the services and products the community relies on,” said Ms Fenech.


She also pointed out to MP Preston, “the State seat of Hawkesbury is a safe Liberal seat, and many of these businesses are Liberal voters. They need you to advocate for them.


“We are just asking for a similar arrangement to impacted Lismore businesses.”


Ms Fenech attached many often heart-breaking stories from local small business impacted by the effects of the floods to the letter sent to Ms Preston.


Many have still had to pay bills despite not being able to work.


One said, “we have a carpentry business with a team of six. No work possible this week because of bridges. Can’t access work. $6500 wages bill weekly plus about $2000 expenses.”


Another said:

“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger right? I’m just not sure how strong we can be with the little support we have had other then our most special friends and family.”


And yet another commented:


“We opened in Jan 2021 and I feel like we shouldn’t have ever opened, 18 months of hell. Hopefully we can get some financial help.”


“We understand that we live on a flood plain,” says Ms Fenech. “However, the number and severity of these floods and the lack of flood-free access across the river put small businesses, the local economy, and the community they support at risk in the long term,” Ms Fenech said in the letter to the MP.


She listed some of the flood impacts and said local businesses that weren’t directly flooded have nevertheless taken a big hit to their incomes.


· With road and bridge closures, owners and staff could not travel to work, so they were forced to take leave (often unpaid).

· The inability for businesses to access clients and therefore earn income

· Clients unable to access businesses, primarily service-based businesses

· Food spoilage and waste from lack of visitors and electricity cuts

· Decimation of the tourist trade

· Interruptions to electricity and telecommunications services that enable businesses to operate


“We are just asking for a similar arrangement to impacted Lismore businesses,” Ms Fenech said.


“We implore the State Government to offer indirectly flood-affected businesses the same support deservingly provided to indirectly flood-affected Lismore businesses earlier this year.”


That’s explained here.


“This precedent of support from the State Government should be extended to Hawkesbury businesses negatively affected by this flood, that have not necessarily been directly inundated. Your advocacy to the Premier and your colleagues is needed by your constituents right now.”


Ms Fenech told the Post she had previously been told by the MP she didn’t like comments on social media and preferred to work quietly behind the scenes, but Ms Fenech says a three week wait for even a reply from the MP is not acceptable to local businesses.


“I contacted our state member Robyn Preston twice about the floods and about the businesses indirectly effected and that they are struggling,” Ms Fenech said.


“It’s not just one obstacle we are experiencing, but the pandemic, four floods, fires, wage increases, costs increasing and even such awesome initiatives such as 10 days domestic violence leave – of course we understand the need for that – however small businesses are already treading water.


“Many are in tears talking to me, some choosing not to go on the list as they are just going to close. I am devastated and at a loss with the lack of support but even more the lack of communication from Ms Preston’s office.”


We put in a request to MP Preston asking why the delay replying to the local businesses, and we’ve also asked what she plans to do to help those businesses. We’ll add the MP’s comments to the story when we receive them…


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