Kalbarri needs more tourists and government funding to survive Seroja, businesses say

Phoebe PinGeraldton Guardian
Kalbarri residents staged a photoshoot to announce they are back open for business.
Camera IconKalbarri residents staged a photoshoot to announce they are back open for business. Credit: Supplied, Yvonne McKenzie

While the streets, buildings and coast may be a little battered, Kalbarri is back open for business.

This was the message more than 100 business owners, residents and even some tourists were eager to promote through a special foreshore photo shoot this week.

They also say state and federal governments need to step up with more funding to ensure businesses survive.

Finlay’s Kalbarri director Melissa Finlay organised the shoot, saying the community was eager to welcome tourists into the town post-cyclone Seroja.

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“Although we’ve had the devastation of the cyclone, our community has come to together, from the volunteers assisting with the clean-up, to locals supporting locals… to take this photo to tell the world Kalbarri is open for business,” she said.

The State Government today announced residents and small businesses suffering financial hardship due to the cyclone can now access payments of up to $4000 through an emergency assistant package.

Small retailers, tourism businesses and hospitality venues from 13 local government areas are eligible to apply through the $2.8 million grant program.

Kalbarri is back and open for business, say locals.
Camera IconKalbarri is back and open for business, say locals. Credit: Supplied, Yvonne McKenzie

But some Kalbarri business owners say the support is not enough.

Ms Finlay told said she has been funnelling assistance she received for damage to her home into her restaurant in the absence of financial aid for businesses.

“We really don’t have much help as far as businesses go,” she told 6PR.

“I am lucky, my house was severely impacted so I get the personal assistance which I can then pump back into my business.”

Kalbarri Boat Hire owner Kat Deadman said few tourists were renting out equipment in the wake of Seroja and it was difficult to keep the business afloat.

“Normally we would be sending out between 25 and 30 pieces (of equipment) a day but (Wednesday) we had one boat go out,” she told 6PR.

Ms Deadman pulled Prime Minister Scott Morrison in for a hug when he visited Kalbarri, but she said government needed to throw money behind their words of support.

“He lifted our spirits when he was here, but we really need him to come on board financially because we are running on absolute minimums,” she said.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison with resident Kat Deadman in Kalbarri after cyclone Seroja.
Camera IconPrime Minister Scott Morrison with resident Kat Deadman in Kalbarri after cyclone Seroja. Credit: The West Australian, Justin Benson-Cooper

Local photographer Yvonne McKenzie — who took photos at the shoot — said many business owners were “running on empty” and were desperate for tourists to return to Kalbarri.

“All of us businesses have been hit by COVID and now we have been hit even harder with Seroja,” she said.

“We would love to welcome visitors back to the town, with consideration to the fact that we are all still very sensitive, we are all still healing and there is a lot of rebuilding to do.

“We just need people’s kindness and patience, but we would just love them to come back and help us and to see what Kalbarri has to offer.”

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