REAL AUSTRALIA

Voice of Real Australia: Seasonal staff frozen out of snow country

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Brumby Bar & Grill co-owner Patricia Borthwick-Higgs has had to reduce the number of patrons in the pub because she doesn't have the staff to serve them. Picture: Tom Melville

Brumby Bar & Grill co-owner Patricia Borthwick-Higgs has had to reduce the number of patrons in the pub because she doesn't have the staff to serve them. Picture: Tom Melville

I went down to Jindabyne a few weeks back - the last town before the main NSW snowfields of Perisher and Thredbo - to report on the housing crisis and staff shortage facing the town.

The flip side of the growth regional towns are seeing is that housing stock is limited. On top of that, in Jindabyne a lot of the houses are investment homes making good returns on the AirBnb market.

It's like a lot of tourist towns in that regard. The paradox of these places is the very things which make them so desirable to tourists - the breweries, the boutique cafes, the lovely country pubs - also make them impossible to staff.

So baristas and bartenders and chefs often find it tough to find affordable housing, leading to a situation where most businesses in town are looking for staff.

That's the situation I found in Jindabyne when I was there putting together this week's Voice of Real Australia podcast. Lots of work, few people. Jindy also usually relies on international workers, coming in to work the season and ski in their spare time. They're not here, of course, leading to a situation where every business I visited is looking for multiple team members to start right away.

So that's their first problem. But now they're facing another. As I write this, millions of Australians are under some sort of lockdown.

That's a lot of potential skiers.

After weeks of preparing for a busy season with skeleton staff, now, right in the middle of the school holidays, they have the opposite problem and can't find tasks for the staff they do have.

And once the restrictions are lifted, they'll be swarmed once more, but might've lost workers during the lockdown.

The sense I get is that their confidence has been shaken. Their business models are being attacked on multiple fronts. How can you run a business under the looming threat of lockdowns? Where will they get staff when people are allowed out again? Domestic tourism across the board has been struck by the capriciousness of the virus. But those who rely on the whims of snowfall have only 12 weeks, 16 if they're lucky, to make the most of peak trade.

It's complicated, and no one seems to have an answer so far. The pandemic has had a huge impact, and unfortunately bigger problems don't just make other problems go away. It's a compounding effect.

One of the people I spoke to - a café owner - has a request for the people who do come and visit this year: Things might take a little longer, but please be patient.

To learn more about the situation, tune into our Voice of Real Australia podcast. Listen and subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or your preferred podcast platform. Just search Voice of Real Australia.

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