BizRebuild, an initiative launched by former Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove, aims to get money and action on the ground of fire-ravaged communities as fast as possible in an effort to ensure affected towns do not “fold and fade away”.
The initiative, created by the Business Council of Australia, is encouraging big businesses to donate tools and supplies to affected communities, with fears that hundreds of businesses could go under following the devastating bushfires.
Just days after its launch, BizRebuild sat down with around 50 mayors and local businesses from bushfire-devastated communities to better understand the extent of the damage.
“We heard today the theme of disaster and setback repeated again and again across local communities. We also heard a very dire impression of the economic damage,” Sir Peter told the community meeting at Parliament House on Wednesday.
“We want to lead a business recovery, and larger businesses are already working to help smaller ones, whether it’s getting someone a job in the short term, whether it’s getting someone the tools they need to start working again, or providing a temporary shopfront for a gutted business,” he said.
Sir Peter noted that the group will not be “bogged down by bureaucracy”, promising the affected communities the recovery process will be made “as easy as possible”.
Among its many plans, BizRebuild expects to launch “flying squads”, giving case management support to small businesses who need advice and guidance as they prepare to rebuild.
The meeting heard from communities, many in drought, how the bushfires had resulted in 100 per cent of holiday bookings evaporating, businesses shutting and jobs disappearing. Others said their agriculture and forestry industries had been decimated.
Mayors said there was a desperate need to get cash and credit flowing back into their local economies, tourists returning and larger companies buying more from regional businesses.
Business Council of Australia chief executive Jennifer Westacott opined that members of the business community cannot begin to comprehend the trauma local communities are facing, urging big business to get involved.
She reiterated that the initiative is about co-ordinating the resources that large companies have for impact.
“We want to rekindle a sense of community in bushfire-affected regions, give them a sense of hope and a road to recovery. Our response is designed to be practical and on-the-ground,’’ Ms Westacott said.
BizRebuild is encouraging larger businesses to waive or defer debts wherever possible to alleviate the pressure and to make sure cash is coming in by paying invoices before they are due, while also suggesting that big businesses should relocate all of their major events to smaller communities.
Maja Garaca Djurdjevic is the editor of My Business.
Maja has an extensive career as a journalist across finance, business and market intelligence. Prior to joining Momentum Media, Maja spent several years unravelling social, political and economic intricacies in Eastern Europe.