Narooma crys out for help during Labor's COVID Recovery Taskforce visit

Business and tourism representatives of Narooma voiced concerns over accommodation and staffing issues, unreliable telecommunications and the seasonality of tourism as we exit the pandemic.

Ahead of the federal election, Labor's COVID Recovery Taskforce chair Milton Dick MP and Eden-Monaro MP Kristy McBain travelled the South Coast to hear how businesses and the community was coping.

Their aim was to hear ideas and vision towards a policy coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic.

During their visit to Narooma on Monday, April 12, Mr Dick and Ms McBain heard how well Narooma businesses adapted during the pandemic.

Narooma's business and tourism stakeholders catch-up with Eden-Monaro MP Kristy McBain and Member for Oxley and chair of Labors COVID Recovery Taskforce Milton Dick at the Inlet at Narooma on Monday, April 12.

Narooma's business and tourism stakeholders catch-up with Eden-Monaro MP Kristy McBain and Member for Oxley and chair of Labors COVID Recovery Taskforce Milton Dick at the Inlet at Narooma on Monday, April 12.

However, the record numbers of tourism has amplified the long-time need for affordable housing.

One Narooma business owner said staffing was his biggest issue: "We can't attract new staff to the area because of the lack of accommodation - there are no rentals."

He also said it was frustrating during peak periods, not having reliable telecommunications for eftpos and business operations.

With more people choosing to move to the Eurobodalla Shire, property prices were becoming more competitive and rentals minimal.

South Coast Tourism Industry Association executive officer Karen Dempster said: "We have seen record numbers of tourism with not enough accommodation, no staff because people are not wanting to work because of job keeper and government payments."

While international borders are closed, Ms Dempster said more people were discovering Narooma. She said now was the time to leverage off success and look at different ways to keep visitors coming back.

"We need to address the seasonality of tourism and come up with collaborative strategies to draw tourism all year round," she said.

She wanted to see the Shoalhaven, Eurobodalla Shire and Bega Valley Shire councils work together.

"Council's need to collaborate and have one brand - The South Coast," she said.

Instead of "glossy ad campaigns", Ms Dempster said the government needs to invest in "targeted support" to help struggling businesses move forward.

She said the process for small businesses to apply for grants was too difficult.

"Whilst government grants have been available, the process for a small business to apply has been too difficult."

Ms McBain said tourism and small businesses were the lifeblood of the local economy and more support was needed.

"The task force heard critical feedback on how COVID-19 has affected the people, families and jobs in our community that rely on this work," she said.

"The message was clear. Narooma is crying out for assistance on housing issues, more support for skilled workers, improved telecommunications and tourism funding that is better targeted.

"People see the opportunities and are ready to go, we need the support and focus of government to back us.

"Our tourism operators have quickly and effectively adapted through bushfires, a pandemic and an economic downturn. With better support we can grow Narooma as a destination of choice for holidays and lifestyle."

Through investment in housing and a skilled workforce, Mr Dick believed Narooma had the opportunity to grow without spoiling its cultural heritage and natural beauty.

"The feedback we have received will be critical in ensuring Labor's plan for getting the local economy back, it really fires on all cylinders and realises the opportunities local people see in their community," he said.

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