'It will be months until business returns to normal': Business owner's open letter to Premier

Venetia Beckwith, owner of Matilda's Farmyard Nursery. Photo: Sylvia Liber
Venetia Beckwith, owner of Matilda's Farmyard Nursery. Photo: Sylvia Liber

An Illawarra small business owner says the eventual end of the current lockdown will still not guarantee an immediate end to her "financial struggle".

For 21 years, Venetia Beckwith and husband George have lived on a farm in Albion Park, where they run their mobile petting farm, Matilda's Farmyard Nursery.

A "frustrated" Mrs Beckwith outlined many of the difficulties her business - which "relies on public interaction and people asking me to visit them one-on-one with the animals" - had faced in an open letter to NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian.

Mrs Beckwith said last year they managed to survive with the help of JobKeeper and feed donations from customers.

"As a result of restrictions, we had absolutely no work from March until November 2020," she said.

Now, Mrs Beckwith said she was concerned about the "inconsistency" of the latest restrictions, such as shopping centres remaining open, and some shoppers browsing despite being told not to do so.

"It's not the COVID restrictions that have crushed our business," she said. "It is however the unfairness, inconsistency and complete lack of equality within the restrictions."

Venetia Beckwith, owner of Matilda's Farmyard Nursery says her business has been drastically affected by COVID-19 restrictions. Photo: Sylvia Liber

Venetia Beckwith, owner of Matilda's Farmyard Nursery says her business has been drastically affected by COVID-19 restrictions. Photo: Sylvia Liber

Mrs Beckwith said they'd had all functions cancelled from June 26 to July 23, many of them birthday parties.

Mrs Beckwith also said when the current lockdown ends, her business would not automatically see an increase in work, "as functions need time to be replanned and organised at later dates".

"The end of lockdown does not guarantee the immediate end of my financial struggle as it will be months afterwards until business returns to normal," she said.

Mrs Beckwith said they didn't qualify for the government's small business grants last year, but were hopeful of being eligible this year.

"(Our business) will survive... They can't shut everybody down for the next six months," she said.

In June, the NSW Government announced a new grants package to help small businesses and people impacted by the restrictions.

Ms Berejiklian said the centrepiece of the package was the small business support grants, which would help businesses by alleviating cashflow constraints while trading is restricted.

The package includes grants of between $5000 and $10,000 for small businesses, payroll tax deferrals for all employers, and an extension of the Dine & Discover program to August 31.

The financial rescue package is expected to be expanded to include businesses and sole traders with an annual turnover of less than $75,000.

Applications for the support packages will be available on July 19.

This story 'It will be months until business returns to normal' first appeared on Illawarra Mercury.