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Stories of Resilience

Tenterfield Chamber of Tourism, Industry and Business


Located in the far north of New South Wales, Tenterfield has a modest population of just over 4,000 but is famed as the birthplace of both, Federation in Australia and musical legend Peter Allen. The Tenterfield Shire Local Government Area (LGA) was also the birthplace of the worst bushfire season ever recorded in NSW, with homes and businesses being destroyed in September 2019. The business community in Tenterfield has not focused on bushfire survival and recovery in isolation, as the bushfires were one big economic challenge in a concurrent series. They followed directly from the worst recorded drought, which saw agricultural livestock numbers depleted and the town’s reservoir so close to dry that for 72 days, bushfire ash and turbidity meant town water was only considered safe to drink after boiling. Within months of the devastation of the bushfires, businesses were locked down by Covid-19 control measures and economically crushing impacts would be endured for close to two years.

The Tenterfield Chamber of Tourism, Industry and Business has been extremely successful with delivering proactive initiatives that stimulate local economic activity. This success has boosted community engagement, business unity and confidence, all integral to economic recovery.


Local Businesses Went Through A Lot

Chamber President, Kristen Lovett describes the seemingly simple but effective Business Raffle initiative.

“Tenterfield businesses have been through a lot over the last few years, particularly with drought and then fire. There was a fair bit of hype in the media about our town not having any water. Our town dam had gotten down to 14 percent. That was followed by some very intense bushfires coming through, which also impacted our water quality. Council was forced to step in and invest in water resources, such as bores,” Ms Lovett said.


"A natural disaster cannot be helped,
we've just had to work through as a business
community and a general community."


“Businesses were impacted because we didn’t have tourists or local travellers coming through,” she said. “Those disasters and their impacts have a personal toll on businesses and their morale. They’ve been through quite a lot and then Covid rolled around and supressed things even further. They are quite a resilient bunch but they’ve really had their challenges.”
“The bushfires were really bad around Tenterfield. A lot of land was burnt out, including areas quite close to town and we lost some homes, businesses and our National Parks, which are tourist drawcards. We lost the use of the Bald Rock National Park for 12 months and that impacted our visitor numbers.”


Support With Collaborative Initiatives

“The Tenterfield Chamber of Tourism, Industry and Business implemented some initiatives to promote local spending. The shop local business raffle is a Facebook Group, where local businesses put forward a raffle item that might be worth $500 and they sell tickets equivalent to that sum, the local community purchase the tickets, the item is raffled after all tickets are sold. Somebody might end up with a $500 item for the cost of say, a $10 ticket and a business has been able to get that same revenue from that item that they would have been selling out of their store. It is creating quite a bit of hype and engagement between Tenterfield businesses and the broader community.”


"What we have found is important
to get through such difficult times is to
really support our local businesses."


The Chamber successfully created meaningful economic stimulus measures.

“Our second initiative involved a $40,000 fund that we raised money for, with sponsorship and Chamber efforts. That money has been invested in ‘Tenterfield True’ local spend cards, which were distributed in the local community and can only be redeemed through Tenterfield businesses. The money is kept within town but it also boosts our local economy,” Ms Lovett said.
“What we have found is important to get through such difficult times is to really support our local businesses. We’ve spent a lot of time helping business to sell products online so that they can compete with web-based platforms and retailers but also so that they can have some turnover, when customers cannot come into town or their business.”

“A natural disaster cannot be helped, we’ve just had to work through as a business community and the general community. There has been a lot of concern about what would happen with Tenterfield going forward, how would the business and local community cope but we have, through a greater recognition of the need to support one another. Everyone has sprung into action, whether making sure our firies are supported or a local business.”
Lara Flanagan is a Tenterfield photographer and runs her own store and gallery in the town. She reiterated that it has been “extraordinarily tough for Tenterfield businesses” but country town unity and innovative supports have boosted business resilience.

“2019 was the end of a very long drought. That year we also got the double-whammy of fire.  A lot of people are not aware that the Tenterfield Shire started burning in February 2019 and we didn’t really stop fighting fires until November. It was a year of ash, dry ground, of farmers in crisis, of depleted and contaminated drinking water but I was always amazed at how the community came together,” recalled Ms Flanagan. “We were finally ready to recover from the 2019 disasters and then Covid hit. It has been an incredibly difficult few years for the community.”

“The Chamber has done an extraordinary job to bring everyone together and provide ongoing inspiration and hope. In addition to improving turnover, the business raffle has increased awareness of what local businesses offer. The business grants have helped us to market our business,” she said. “It’s made a huge difference to me.”

Watch Kristen's Story

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