Moving forward as a community

CARA president Rod Ritchie

Cooroy Area Residents Association president Rod Ritchie

Politicising the next important phase of the Covid-19 reponse in Queensland is somewhat disingenuous given that most residents and businesses here have benefitted from protocols put in place by the state government over the past 18 months. But this is what Leigh McCready, chair of the local LNP branch, did in her soapbox article in Noosa Today on 19 November.

Given that the virus came to our shores via international visitors, it seems fair to expect the hospitality industry to make a big effort to keep infections out of Noosa when our borders are opened after reaching the 80 per cent double-vaccinated target. Asking small businesses to take reasonable steps to enforce the restrictions, including asking for evidence of vaccination from customers at the time of check-in, should be something every business would want to do if they cared about their reputation, the welfare of customers and staff and, indeed, the risk of having their business closed for deep cleaning. And, asking people to leave the premises if they cannot prove their vaccination status, is only common sense given the virulence of new and future virus strains.

Suggesting there “has been anger and distress voiced by small businesses across Noosa by these additional burdens”, ignores the fact that the whole community has pulled through to date with minimal infections since the Hastings Street Cluster of March 2000, when 28 people contracted Covid at a local restaurant.

How much more distress would there be if this rate of infection had continued? And how about our residents? Living in a tourist destination in the time of Covid has meant many stresses, from home-schooling kids, to job losses, to worry about elderly relatives. And, consider this, those of us in the hinterland, and regional Queensland generally, have toiled through Covid protocols based on the situation in coastal tourism precincts

Really, being “forced, without any compensation, to deep clean their businesses on demand, collect data for the government on Covid check-ins and, with new restrictions next month, administer public health directives”, meant most businesses could operate normally outside lockdowns. And surely will do so in the future.

It’s hard to even reconcile Ms McCready’s version of life here compared to people living in the southern states. And to people locked out of returning to Queensland or from overseas. It should be noted that not just businesses have been doing the “heavy lifting”, we all have been. And while Jobkeeper propped up many businesses, casual staff were turned out of jobs with only Centrelink for support, while backpackers found themselves stranded. “What if the money runs out?” is indeed the question these people have been asking themselves.

Blaming the government for “burdens” on small business that “can’t “secure the services of a chef” are quite over the top. Negotiating ways to ameliorate the effects of the pandemic has been a trial for the whole community, and certainly “anger and stress” are associated with more than small business.

Lexis English, for example, an iconic local business, lost a nationwide operation when the pandemic hit, not just a portion of their business. The school is only now able to re-emerge as international students begin to return to the country early next year. And, why dwell on the plight of an accommodation provider who “preferred to close her doors rather than subject staff or customers to a policy which…is un-Australian and goes against her values”. Looking at the world-wide misery, loss of life, and economic disruption occurring in other less fortunate countries, this surely comes under the category of First World problems.

With the real estate boom from people moving here for a less stressful life, either to reclaim their rental property or to buy a property, rental properties have disappeared. This has seen many hospitality workers driven out of the shire, while a huge increase in short-term holiday letting has brought major disruptions to coastal precincts once considered quiet suburban enclaves. As to housing affordability for first-home buyers, such an outsized expense means their dreams of buying in the shire have been dashed.

Rather than shifting the responsibility and costs of its own decisions to business owners and their staff, the government is dealing with a public health issue at huge expense to taxpayers, including subsidies to hospitality businesses.

Since Council has been following state directions until now, including a relaxation on visitor numbers for events, it seems reasonable to continue in this vein.

Why would anyone want to politicise the state’s roadmap for this important next phase of returning to open borders, unless it was for political point scoring? Let’s all do our best to get ahead of Covid, not whinge about rules to protect the shire, or recovery will be even further away. How will that affect “the Noosa lifestyle we all love”?