COVID-19 northern beaches: Businesses call out for help

HERE TO LISTEN: NSW Small Business Commissioner Chris Lamont and businesses owner Karin Slade. Picture: Nadine Morton
HERE TO LISTEN: NSW Small Business Commissioner Chris Lamont and businesses owner Karin Slade. Picture: Nadine Morton

A REPORT that could help shape the NSW Government's relief response for businesses impacted by COIVD-19 lockdowns is due in a week.

The end of COVID-19 lockdowns in the northern beaches has not brought relief to businesses with some owners saying "talk fests" by all levels of government have so far failed to produce any real assistance.

On Wednesday more than 40 small businesses owners, mainly from the northern zone of the local government area, pleaded their case to NSW Small Business Commissioner Chris Lamont, Pittwater MP Rob Stokes and Northern Beaches Council mayor Michael Regan.

The commissioner is in the LGA for two weeks to hear first-hand from businesses who struggled during and since the lockdowns, and to find out what help and support they need.

Wednesday's meeting was hosted by northern beaches caterer Karin Slade who fears her business, and many others in the LGA, may not survive the downturn.

While much of the attention has gone towards hospitality businesses that are doing it tough, she said many other industries are also struggling, including tourism, performers, the arts and creative spaces.

HERE TO LISTEN: NSW Small Business Commissioner Chris Lamont listened to concerns from northern beaches business owners. Picture: Nadine Morton

HERE TO LISTEN: NSW Small Business Commissioner Chris Lamont listened to concerns from northern beaches business owners. Picture: Nadine Morton

"A lot of us have had no income since December 18, but everyone deciding our future is getting paid," she said aiming her comments towards politicians who she said are yet to ramp up efforts to help the LGA's struggling businesses.

"We're a month down the track and there's been lots of words, I feel like they just want us to go away."

Warringah Chamber of Commerce vice president Matt Tanks told the commissioner that the number one concern for business owners is cash flow, respondents of the chamber's survey shows.

We're a month down the track and there's been lots of words, I feel like they just want us to go away.

Caterer Karin Slade

"A lot of smaller businesses can't afford to buy masks," he said.

"If businesses and the community is being told to be in it together, we expect the same from our levels of government."

Mr Lamont said the independent report could become a blueprint for how the NSW Government supports other businesses in similar situations.

"There's a lot of businesses seriously affected by the lockdown, this is a seasonal location in many respects for their customers," he said.

"Cash flow is clearly an issue, mental health a real concern. These are businesses that didn't start doing it tough on December 18, they've had a really tough 2020 and business is tough at the best of time, let alone with a pandemic. Retail leasing's still an issue and I think just understanding where to go [for help]."

Mr Lamont said he will consider all suggestions from local businesses, along with their recommendations and priorities and put those to government.

"We're not going to stop a good idea coming forward, if we get one we're going to take it and we'll keep listening. The best solutions sometimes come from small businesses themselves so I'm all ears for the next couple of days to get the ideas," he said.

Does your business need support?

A wide range of support and services already exist to help businesses during and after COVID-19 lockdowns.

"A number of businesses as we heard tonight weren't aware that there is support both from my office, from Service NSW, from Safe Work. We need to make sure that that which is already available that they're aware of," Mr Lamont said.

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