State and federal governments have been urged to consider tax breaks for businesses impacted by the drought – not just farmers.
Coonamble Shire mayor Al Karanouh has reported one major supplier of farm machinery has already scaled down their business, and let staff go, in response to the drop in business.
There’s less range on the supermarket shelves, he says, and even those on welfare and pensioners are tightening their belts.
“As the state and federal governments always say, we [small businesses] are the backbone of this country,” said Councillor Karanouh, who also owns a cafe business in town.
“But [small businesses] always get bypassed. It’s not that hard to have a special tax break for businesses in drought-affected areas only.
“It could be a tax break, tax cut, payroll cut in tax, and I believe that’s where the government should look before [businesses] shut their doors down.”
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The farm machinery supplier, which Cr Karanouh did not wish to name, offered staff the option to relocate to a city branch, instead of being laid off altogether.
Leaving town is not an option for everyone, but it’s an option farmer Kristy Taylor fears some will take.
At Gulargambone, the Taylors are facing the worst drought in living memory on their property ‘Warrambone’, and have no harvest.
She says if people lose their jobs and leave town, they won’t come back, meaning “this drought could have ramifications for many, many years to come”.
“Once those families leave the district, once they go and seek work in larger regional centres, attracting skills back into these area is going to be hard,” Mrs Taylor said.
“The local auto spares place … no one can buy a bale for them. But those people are also doing it tough.
“Without other business houses there won’t be farmers either. We’ll need them when this drought breaks.”
Cr Karanouh predicted many of those impacted by job losses would end up on Newstart anyway, and urged the government to act “before they shut their doors down”.
But he said Coonamble would recover.
“We’ve been through this before,” he said. “Generations of families have been farming here and they organise themselves to the best of their ability to manage this.
“It’s a fantastic, resilient community … Coonamble will definitely bounce back.”