The impact of Cyclone Jasper on businesses in Far North Queensland has been described as ‘impossibly challenging’ with data from the Cairns Chamber of Commerce revealing that 90 per cent of businesses have been impacted by the natural disaster.
A survey conducted by the chamber has revealed that more than 94 per cent of this number were forced to close temporarily with some not expected to reopen until well after Christmas and others likely to take months.
"This is a really challenging time for businesses in North Queensland and the direct and indirect impacts from Cyclone Jasper are far-reaching and hard-hitting," says Cairns Chamber of Commerce CEO Patricia O'Neill.
"For some businesses it's too soon to know the full damage cost, but others told us they expect the financial impact to be in the millions.
"Businesses are reporting their retail sales and revenue were down 80 per cent in the past week. This impact is really distressing for those businesses, especially during what should be a time of optimism for the local community."
Compounding the issue is that more than 60 per cent those surveyed were not insured for damages associated with the disaster with many reporting they couldn’t afford insurance, while others said they were underinsured.
The federal and state governments earlier this week announced raft of measures to assist businesses get on their feet, including loans and support packages.
However, not all of the businesses impacted by Cyclone Jasper have suffered direct loss or damage, with Business Chamber Queensland CEO Heidi Cooper revealing that some have been affected by supply chain disruptions and staff being isolated from their work.
“This is a challenging set of circumstances for businesses to face any day of the year and in any part of the state, but for this disaster to happen in such a tourism rich region and at normally peak tourism time is a double hit to businesses and their workforces," says Cooper.
“Our most recent data shows businesses in the Far North had among the highest confidence in the economy ahead of the Christmas period so to see this disaster hit so significantly is really saddening.”
Cooper says Business Chamber Queensland has joined with the Cairns Chamber of Commerce and other local chambers in the region to work with government representatives to ensure businesses have access to the support, information and resources they need to aid their recovery.
“Of course, this is all compounding against an already stretched and stressed business community with record high operating and labour costs and ongoing impacts from macroeconomic challenges like workforce constraints, inflation and consumer demand,” she says.
“We welcome timely disaster recovery activation for businesses so they can prioritise their recovery and get back to business.
“At the same time, it’s important this support is easy and efficient for businesses to access, especially at such a challenging time.
“It’s why we’re calling for a comprehensive business sustainability and resilience framework ahead of the FY24 State Budget to ensure the state’s business community is equipped to navigate challenges and thrive in changing economic landscapes."
While the insurance industry has yet to put a cost on the damage caused by Cyclone Jasper, S&P Global Ratings revealed yesterday that Australian insurers and the State of Queensland are ‘well placed’ to meet the costs the natural disaster which it describes as a ‘modest’ event.
However, the Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) this week declared Cyclone Jasper as a ‘significant event’ for regions of Far North Queensland which could escalate to becoming an ‘insurance catastrophe’ if there is a significant increase in claim numbers.
The most recent estimates from the ICA reveal that about 3,000 claims have been received by insurers for damages caused by the cyclone. The damages in Cairns alone are said to have affected about 1,400 homes.
Get our daily business news
Sign up to our free email news updates.