The pandemic pushed us into an unprecedented hibernation and with the easing of restrictions, people and businesses are now starting to slowly re-emerge with a mixed sense of relief and trepidation. While we have flattened the pandemic curve in this country, the economies of our regional areas are facing devastating hardship and a long recovery, in particular those hit by the bushfires of last summer. Regional areas have faced a $3.8 billion reduction in tourist income.  Tourism North East report more than $600 million lost so far this year.  There is no doubt it has been “a shocker” and the stress in these communities is naturally very high.

As we work towards the economic recovery from the global pandemic, we need to remember the communities already suffering from the bushfires and ensure support is delivered to them without delay.  In the face of adversity, our regional communities always rally and have done so again through the pandemic. In my virtual meetings with councils, businesses and individuals, this is demonstrated time and again.

I commend our regional councils, local businesses, residents young and old, for working together to help each other during the pandemic.  I thank local hospitals and their staff, teachers, emergency and essential workers.  I thank parents and children for learning from home, many of them while also working from home.  I commend businesses who have pivoted to new ways of operating in order to keep their doors ajar and people employed.

In many workplaces, the pandemic has paved a new way of operating, showing that in many instances you can productively work from anywhere. This is a great opportunity for regional areas, an even greater opportunity for people living in metropolitan areas to consider what living in a regional area has to offer.  I invite you to visit our regional areas, book your holidays when it’s safe to do so, but to also think about making a regional area your home. Bring your family, your pets, the last months have shown you could even bring your job!