I recently spent the day with my federal colleagues as we visited fire impacted areas in the Blue Mountains and spoke at length with local residents and emergency services about the recent bushfires and the recovery plan. Of particular focus was the impacts on local businesses and the recovery process. The feedback from their continuing tour will shape the ongoing national recovery package.
The head of the National Bushfire Recovery Agency Andrew Colvin and the Minister for Natural Disaster and Emergency Management, David Littleproud have pledged to help Mountains residents and businesses badly affected by the bushfires.
Today along with Senator Marise Payne, Macquarie MP Susan Templeman, and Blue Mountains mayor Mark Greenhill we heard from residents who homes and businesses were destroyed or badly burnt in the December fires.
We visited the Rhododendron Gardens in Blackheath, which sustained significant damage, losing up to one-third of the gardens to fire as well as inspecting the blackened scenery, and met with a number of business owners, all of whom have experienced massive downturns during the fires.
Blue Mountains businesses are seeing the effects of the bushfires instantly. The Fairmont Resort has lost $2.5 million in revenue since November 1 and staffing levels have been reduced from 120 to 50. The Victoria and Albert in Mt Victoria had 100 per cent cancellations for its 23 rooms which had been fully booked. Scenic World was also down 50,000 visitors in December.
Already $1 million has been allocated to Blue Mountains Council to help the community recover. However, it is essential that the public understand that the Blue Mountains are back open for business. I encourage those thinking about a holiday, please go local and come and visit the Blue Mountains and spend a few dollars to assist the local businesses and local jobs.