During my wanderings I didn't just visit homes I visited businesses too. There are quite a few in the area and aside from the essentials of food and services like Piccone's, the chemist, Coles, the butcher, banks and petrol stations, all businesses are struggling. Even those are not thriving as they should be. Some are very close to closing and a few are already for sale. These are owned by locals and most offer gifts and beauty services which are no longer part of most local family's budgets.
Business out here needs a huge boost.
In the houses almost every person I spoke to owns a small business or is a sub contractor. Almost all are struggling to pay the bills. In this one there are no easy answers.
The majority of businesses in Cairns are struggling. Even those we all thought impervious to a slowing market are closing down. National stores are closing up shop and our unemployment figures are appalling. What it means is that more of us are shopping at local stores and buying local products as we become more aware of our impact on the sustainability of business. That's a good thing. What's not a good thing is that many I spoke to are doing away with things they consider essential. They are downgrading insurance, paying off bills instead of paying for them upfront, changing schools, cancelling health cover and in some cases, firing staff.
The global market is still unstable and locally, we feel the effects more than most. Being a tourism destination, many local jobs are wrapped up in the tourism industry. Where previously hospitality and tourism staff were employing people to mow their lawns, re-build their kitchen, add a room to the house or even clean and iron for them, now they have dropped those services due to unemployment or downgrading of their job. The knock on effect is being felt everywhere as restaurants are frequented less, clothing and electronics are bought for a bargain price online and gifts are less extravagant.
Perhaps we are moving to a more self-sufficient society, forced on us by global economic downturns. Maybe it's simply a stage we are going through and money will flow freely again in a few years. I don't know. What I do know is that whatever happens next, people are in danger of losing their homes and livelihoods if things don't improve quickly and that would have devastating consequences for our region.
The best thing we can do if we live in this area, is shop locally for everything. Buy your food, your newspaper, your Panadol, your birthday presents and your meat from the stores right here in your own neighbourhood. They need your money and you need their products. It's a win, win situation.