Last night I found out that a much-loved cafe in Cobargo will be closing its doors for good next week. The staff in the cafe helped the Cobargo community to come together after the fires. They offered that bit of normality for those people whose lives had been turned upside down by the fires, but multiple lockdowns and border closures were just too much. They couldn't keep going because, as they put it, COVID had taken its toll. My heart breaks as I see small businesses and sole traders in Eden-Monaro whose once profitable and successful businesses are now struggling every day trying to make a living. Many businesses in Eden-Monaro are like this cafe. They've been hanging on by a thread. There are businesses that for different reasons were unable to access government assistance, but even those that have received assistance are still just trying to get by. I worry that there will be more business owners who are tired and are giving up the fight.
The Australian snow industry is on the brink, which means that, whilst the rest of the country is getting back to normal, businesses and families in the Snowy Mountains are facing more uncertainty. The snow industry has missed two seasons of trade as a result of COVID lockdowns. And with the snow gone, businesses will need to wait at least another six months until they can start to recoup some of their losses. The snow industry usually contributes about $2 billion each year to Australia's economy. Australia's alpine regions are now threatened with some 20,000 job losses. The federal and New South Wales governments need to work together. They need to urgently establish a joint grant package targeted at the snow industry, because this industry needs support. But I'm not holding my breath that this will happen.
So, in the meantime, I'm calling on our residents, our locals and our visitors to do everything they can to support our local businesses. Go local first. Shop at local grocers and butchers. Support local retail by buying Christmas presents in our towns before shopping online. And, if you can, go out and enjoy time at our cafes and restaurants. Small businesses play a vital role in our economies. They keep communities thriving and create local jobs. I want to give a shout-out to everyone in Canberra who can travel at the moment. Come to our incredibly beautiful region. If you are travelling to the Bay, pop into Bungendore and check out the antique store or grab a cuppa in Braidwood. If you're heading to Merimbula or Tathra, duck into Cooma, Nimmitabel or Bemboka. If you're heading to Bredbo for the Christmas Barn, spend a day at the pub. Take a day trip to Yass and stop at a winery in Murrumbateman. Use one of the mountain-bike tracks in Jindabyne or Tumut, or go for a bushwalk in the Snowy valleys. Check out and stay in our local accommodation, buy at our shops, go out for dinner with your families and, when you return home, know that you have made a difference to our local communities.