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Coronavirus heralds return of bushfire mantra to support local business

By Kerrin Thomas and Kim Honan, Wednesday March 18, 2020 - 09:03 EDT
Audience submitted image
Two big events have already been cancelled in Wingham, on the NSW Mid North Coast. - Audience submitted

Just as people were encouraged to and bring their empty eskies to bushfire-ravaged communities, the importance of supporting local businesses in regional areas is again being emphasised.

In Wingham, on the NSW Mid North Coast, the call comes as the community grapples with the cancellation of both the local show and annual Beef Week, which draws at least 500 student competitors plus their supporters.

Chamber of Commerce president Liz Jarvis said there were ways people could support businesses without spending a lot of time there.

"Perhaps people could phone through their orders in advance, so they don't have to be in the shops for very long," she said.

"Buy a voucher from a local coffee shop or other businesses so that the money still comes into the business — the activity or the service is delivered at a later date, but those business owners still have some money coming in."

Ms Jarvis said there was potential for devastating impacts upon regional businesses.

"Unfortunately — fear — it closes wallets. It means people are less likely to spend … and that really does impact our local businesses," she said.

"Keeping on using those businesses, keeping those doors open for them, is really important because if things do get so tight that they perhaps have to close their business, it's very unlikely that they'd be able to pick up and open again."

Some are already being impacted — like cafe owner and caterer, Donna Carrier, who is also on the Barrington Coast Tourism Committee.

Ms Carrier has had a job catering for 180 people cancelled and is not sure if two weddings she is due to cater soon will go ahead.

"This has been another blow, the bushfires had already affected business in the area, so it's going to be tough, I think," she said.

"But there are opportunities in some of the stores in Wingham and around the area for online sales, so if people are shopping, I'd urge them to shop from local businesses, especially regional businesses."

Social distancing and community recovery

The show, in particular, was being seen as a way to bring the Wingham community together after a difficult run.

"We'd been sort of gradually building the excitement for everybody in the region because they have come in off a really hard year last year, and we were trying to bring some normality back to everyone's lives," Show Society president Elaine Turner said.

"There will be a lot of people disappointed, but hopefully they understand and have some patience with us as we work through this.

"At the end of the day, we had to consider the well-being, the safety, and health of our patrons and volunteers, all the stewards, everybody involved with running our show."

Donna Carrier said the cancellations came as the community was focusing on pulling together.

"It's gatherings that we're losing when we really need to be having gatherings because of the bushfire recovery," she said.

"People need to get out and about and need to be seeing other people and spending time with other people."

Salvaging what they can

Beef producers and school students spend months preparing cattle for the Wingham Beef Week and organisers were trying to salvage some parts of the event, according to committee president Matt Martin.

"We couldn't really scale back. Who do you pick? Who do you tell not to come?" he said.

"But we decided … to continue on with a carcase competition, just to give the producers somewhere to go with their cattle.

"All the schools and producers can still send their cattle in if they're nominated, and we'll still grade them as if they were in the competition, so they can still get the results back."

And Elaine Turner is hoping to do something special with one exhibit submitted for the junior art competition.

"A little three-year-old girl came in [last] Tuesday, and it was the first entrant with her beautiful little pictures that she'd put together for the hall — that sort of thing is what you remember and that's what a local show is all about."


© ABC 2020

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