North west businesses on path to recovery

North west flooding: towns boosted by vouchers, internet sales

News
A North vs South side cricket match at the Julia Creek Indoor Sports Centre in November has been one of many recovery initiatives put on.

A North vs South side cricket match at the Julia Creek Indoor Sports Centre in November has been one of many recovery initiatives put on.

Aa

While vouchers, the internet and national goodwill have been a godsend for many of the small businesses in north west Queensland that suffered from the ripple effect of last February's monsoon trough, others more reliant on primary production are waiting alongside their clients for good times to return.

Aa

While vouchers, the internet and national goodwill have been a godsend for many of the small businesses in north west Queensland that suffered from the ripple effect of last February's monsoon trough, others more reliant on primary production are waiting alongside their clients for good times to return.

One of those is George Booth from Booth Rural, which has merchandise outlets in Julia Creek and Townsville.

In his words, the last 12 months have been "pretty bloody tough".

Business was steady straight after the flooding, when lots of fencing material was sold and there was money to spend on it, but business dropped dramatically in the latter portion of the year.

Flashback: Flooding sent lives into overdrive

In line with expectations, demand for animal husbandry products has declined along with the drop in stock numbers.

For example, where Booth Rural might once have sold 7000 vaccine doses, only 1000 were needed last year.

On the other hand, increased demand for liquid supplements kept the till turning over, as the year ended with very little rain.

"The last two or three years have been tough and the floods didn't help our cause," Mr Booth said. "But we have loyal customers and I'd like to think this year will be better."

Businesses in Julia Creek's main street are looking skyward as much as the rest of the north west region to see what the summer wet season will bring.

Businesses in Julia Creek's main street are looking skyward as much as the rest of the north west region to see what the summer wet season will bring.

Further down the street in Julia Creek, a relieved Fiona Malone is blessing the reach of social media for a revival in her fortunes, especially after initial fears for her gift and furniture shop's survival.

"Those things are down the list on people's needs, and the first two months were very ordinary," she said.

However, business at Cooleebah Gifts has turned around in the last six months, thanks to a combination of Sisters of the North and Rotary vouchers, increasing the business's presence on social media, and the generosity generated by the Buy From A Bush Business campaign.

Thanks to the latter, Ms Malone sent pre-Christmas parcels as far afield as NSW, Victoria and Western Australia, and has had good feedback in the process.

Related: Buy From the Bush drought relief

She said there might not have been much direct help from the Morrison government's flood recovery package for small business but its delivery on restocking grants and rebuilding loans was seeing some money moving around the communities.

"There's a general air of confidence moving forward, with some rain about."

Susan Dowling, the secretary of the Sisters of the North charity that morphed after the disaster into a crowdfunded facilitator for the concerned generosity of people far and wide, said a lot of small businesses in the region felt left out by the way the government disaster recovery rules were designed.

"I'm part of a small business myself. We just had to pick ourselves up and reinvent the way we did things," she said. "It's a good thing, if you can say that, in that it's prepared us for the next curve ball."

Sisters of the North has so far distributed just over $600,000 via its Live Voucher system and through community events, and is set to put out the remainder of its total of just over $1m in March.

Given the ripple effect, that could provide a benefit of anywhere between $3m and $6m to the impacted shires.

The varying ability of communities to fall back on other industries in times of stress in primary production has been highlighted in where applications for help came from, Ms Dowling said.

In the Cloncurry shire, people applied for $46,000 while at Winton the amount was $144,000.

Aa

From the front page

Sponsored by