More than 90% of local businesses impacted during Cyclone Jasper
The state's Far North business community is facing impossibly challenging conditions with many businesses directly and indirectly impacted during the ongoing natural disaster.
New data from Cairns Chamber of Commerce shows more than 90% of businesses surveyed said they had been impacted, and more than 94% of those were forced to temporarily close their business.
Many of those are still closed and unsure when they would be able to re-open.
Cairns Chamber of Commerce CEO Patricia O'Neill said some businesses expected they wouldn’t be able to re-open until well after Christmas, while for others the recovery process would take months.
"This is a really challenging time for businesses in North Queensland and the direct and indirect impacts from Cyclone Jasper are far-reaching and hard-hitting," Mrs O'Neill said.
"For some businesses it's too soon to know the full damage cost but others told us they expect the financial impact to be in the millions.
"Businesses are reporting their retail sales and revenue were down 80% in the past week.
"This impact is really distressing for those businesses, especially during what should be a time of optimism for the local community."
More than 60% said they were not insured for damages associated with the disaster with many reporting they simply couldn’t afford insurance, while others said they were underinsured.
Mrs O'Neill said she was working with local authorities, including meeting with Premier Steven Miles on the ground on Wednesday, to ensure the full business impact could be assessed.
Close to 90% of businesses said they needed information on available government financial relief while 15% said they still needed help to physically clean up and assess damage.
Business Chamber Queensland CEO Heidi Cooper said businesses could be disaster impacted without having suffered direct damage or loss. Disasters often mean supply chains are disrupted, staff are isolated from their work and customer demand changes.
“This is a challenging set of circumstances for businesses to face any day of the year and in any part of the state, but for this disaster to happen in such a tourism rich region and at normally peak tourism time is a double hit to businesses and their workforces," Ms Cooper said.
“Our most recent data shows businesses in the Far North had among the highest confidence in the economy ahead of the Christmas period so to see this disaster hit so significantly is really saddening.
"As Queenslanders, we know all too well the reality of the weather, and how it can impact us all, not just during a disaster, but as we recover and get back to business.
"These impacts are emotionally and financially challenging for local business and the communities, workforces and supply chains which rely on them.
"Together with Cairns Chamber of Commerce and other local chambers in the Far North, we're working with government representatives to ensure businesses have access to support, information and resources when and where they need it.
“Of course this is all compounding against an already stretched and stressed business community with record high operating and labour costs and ongoing impacts from macroeconomic challenges like workforce constraints, inflation and consumer demand.
We welcome timely disaster recovery activation for businesses so they can prioritize their recovery and get back to business.
“At the same time, it’s important this support is easy and efficient for businesses to access, especially at such a challenging time.
“It’s why we’re calling for a comprehensive business sustainability and resilience framework ahead of the FY24 State Budget to ensure the state’s business community is equipped to navigate challenges and thrive in changing economic landscapes."
Emma Clarke | 0403 944 902