Noosa business sector hit hard by Covid

Tourists on Hastings Street. Photos: Rob Maccoll

Margie Maccoll

Challenging was a word that kept coming up when Noosa Today asked business associations how their members were dealing with Covid repercussions.

Noosa Junction Association president David Langdon said it was “obviously a challenging time”.

“Most businesses are trying to adapt as they can,” he said.

“Some are trading reduced hours. Some restaurants and cafes are going to takeaway. Not a lot are fully closed but there have been some closures. Some are operating at 50 per cent.

“There are definitely staff shortages. Many of the staff have been impacted.“

Mr Langdon said most businesses in the Junction were small to medium in size, some just owner-operated and some had been more able than others to adapt to the situation.

The business situation had improved locally and business confidence had increased before the borders opened prior to Christmas, he said.

“People were quite confident. We have not been able to fully take advantage of the holiday season. That’s very frustrating. Now there’s just a tiny shred of optimism.

“We look forward to some certainty and an organised approach.”

Noosa Chamber of Council president Ralph Rogers echoed many of the sentiments expressed by Mr Langdon regarding Covid cases leading to staff shortages, loss of income for staff and business cuts and closures.

He said with government foresight it didn’t need to be like this.

“We have no rapid cash flow, no rapid support for employees that find themselves out of work,” he said. Mr Rogers said Covid was not a disaster for everyone but for businesses that it is a disaster, it’s horrible.

He said for the past couple of years Noosa had experienced significant profit losses but had rubbed along on local spend and the drive market.

“Now we’ve got the Premier telling people 60 and above to stay home. If you look at the demographics of Noosa, that’s a chunk of the population.

“We’ve been let down by politicians. I don’t think they thought it through.”

Mr Rogers said through roundtable discussions involving business operators and Noosa Council, a “rapid cashflow compensation” policy had been created and put forward to the State Government.

He said the policy would activate immediately during forced shutdowns due to Covid to financially compensate businesses and employees and be based on average earnings.

“It means you can pay your staff, pay your body corporate, your expenses, your rent.

“My biggest disappointment is our politicians,” he said.

We’ve had two years of getting ready for this. I don’t see any preparation for getting ready for this.

“We have 391 ICU beds in the whole state. We had 420 when we went into Covid. We’ve got less than when we started. It’s like getting ready for bushfire season by selling off your fire engines.

“We don’t have a clue to where we’re going. I’m very, very worried. We all know how dead February and March is in this business. This wasn’t the January we thought it’d be.“

Cooroy Chamber of Commerce president Chris Bell said the hinterland was less affected by the mainstream tourist trade than the coastal region and less impacted by Covid.

He said while the region had some large employers with their own protocols in place there were no general protocols and at a meeting this week they aimed to gain feedback from members to make future plans.