East Gippsland is open for business.
That’s the message – sent loud and clear by local leaders, tourism operators and businesses who have had their summer money-making period decimated by the bushfires and their ongoing threat.
This week has seen more than 190 major organisations commit to visiting and supporting the region while campaigns from the Herald Sun and network Seven’s Sunrise program have helped promote East Gippsland to Australia.
Member for Gippsland East, Tim Bull, who since the fires wreaked havoc on December 30 has been showing his support for those directly affected, is pushing for a boost in the local economy.
A large portion of East Gippsland businesses – particularly in Lakes Entrance, Metung, Paynesville, Marlo and the High Country – rely on the busy summer tourism season to stay afloat.
Mr Bull has spoken directly with Premier Daniel Andrews’ office requesting direct cash support for affected local businesses and had discussions with local tourism groups about marketing to bring back visitors.
“Despite fire still being in some parts of the landscape, the reality is that after three years of drought and now the fires our business sector needs some real support and it needs to happen urgently,” Mr Bull said.
“I met with Destination Gippsland about getting advertisements in print and electronic media to highlight that locations like Lakes Entrance, Paynesville, Metung, Bairnsdale and Orbost/Marlo are not directly fire-impacted and are open for business.
“I am pleased to say a quick call to good friend and former Australian cricketer, Cameron White, had him agree to offering up his services to front a campaign to promote his home region.
“The generous response from people across the state has been overwhelming. We now need to let people know that many parts of our region are safe to visit and that the best thing they can do is to come visit and stay a while. “The State Government also has a role to play in this recovery and while the immediate focus needs to be on salvaging this summer tourist season as best we can, the support needs to go on for longer.
“We need to push this area as a winter holiday destination and sell our attractions right though until next summer and beyond.”
Mr Bull said cash injections are vital for those businesses that have been hit hardest.
Federal Member for Gippsland, Darren Chester, said the most useful thing people could do was to support local businesses.
“Many people have asked me how they can help our region to get back on its feet,” Mr Chester said.
“The answer is simple: come and explore Gippsland with your family and friends.
“The relief and recovery effort is significant and will continue for some time to come.
“There are still some road closures and areas that remain inaccessible as important recovery work continues, but the majority of Gippsland is open for business – all it needs now is customers.
“There is so much to see and do in Gippsland. I want to urge everyone to get out and enjoy our beautiful part of Victoria.
“What Gippsland needs right now is you.”
IMAGE: Network Seven’s Sunrise program filmed in Lakes Entrance yesterday morning with popular weatherman, Sam Mac (centre), meeting with locals and discussing the recent bushfires, promoting East Gippsland as a region open for business, while also thanking and praising the work of local CFA members (as well as sharing a lighter moment), including Jadon Dennis (Wairewa), Julian Davies (Wairewa captain), Bernard Abrecht (Kalimna West), Tim Elrington (Lakes Entrance/Toorloo Arm) and Phil Loukes (Lakes Entrance captain). K109-516