Australia– The Christmas Day bushfire has likely stripped $20 million from Lornes economy in the peak holiday period, a report has revealed.
The impact of the Wye River blaze leaves Easter as a key time for Great Ocean Road businesses desperate to recoup lost income.
Tourism bodies and political leaders, including Treasurer Tim Pallas, have estimated the losses across the region would top $50 million.
A Surf Coast Shire report details the financial fallout of the bushfire, which destroyed 118 homes, forced major events to be relocated or cancelled and kept tourists away.
Lorne was badly hit, with Surf Coast Shire economic development and tourism manager Matt Taylor stating revenue nosedived over the 10-day Christmas-New Year holiday period.
During the peak time … a daily economic loss of up to $2 million across the township could have been experienced, Mr Taylor said in the report.
The long-burning bushfire led to accommodation vacancies being seen along the Torquay-Lorne coast over that period for the first time.
Providers were forced to drop prices to below winter season levels and scrap the minimum night stay policy to help fill rooms.
Mr Taylor said retail, accommodation and supply chain businesses were all affected.
The township evacuation on December 26 and the extreme fire threat to Lorne impacted negatively on the majority of Lorne traders, who saw a 10-30 per cent decrease in trading across a variety of sectors, he said.
The continued threat of fires also led to major events.
The relocation of Falls Festival to Mt Duneed had a big impact, as the 16,000-strong crowd did not go to the coast.
Some Lorne traders reported reductions of 30 to 60 per cent on this alone, with accommodation sites seeing five-figure losses.
The cancellation of New Years Eve fireworks in Torquay and Lorne also hampered trade, with fewer people attending the beaches and foreshore areas or outlets. Parts of Torquay were hit harder by a power outage on New Years Eve, causing substantial losses for retailers, especially stores at Surf City.
The fire destroyed 98 homes and holiday houses at Wye River and 18 at Separation Creek.
The blaze continued to burn in steep and inaccessible terrain for several weeks, posing problems for firefighters.
In Anglesea, retailers were hit hard between Christmas and New Year, with trade reduced by up to 70 per cent on key days.
However, some businesses saw trade returning to normal in early January.
It was better news in Winchelsea, where completion of the Princes Highway works and a major exhibition combined to produce the best summer in years, according to the report.
The Dressmaker costume exhibition at Barwon Park Mansion attracted up to 1000 people daily, driving up takings by 50 per cent in the town.
Apollo Bay, which also suffered, is in Colac Otway Shire. Officials of the Department of Game and Wildlife have called for a thorough cleaning of the environment to ward off reptiles, following preliminary investigations and assessment they conducted in Essienimpong and Kwaaso in the Ejisu municipality which have been invaded by snakes.
The team, who visited the two communities and interacted with the people, believe that the recent long drought coupled with the destruction of the natural habitat through bushfires might have forced the reptiles to invade these towns, since their habitat had been destroyed.
Speaking to the Daily Graphic, the Regional Manager of the Wildlife Division for Brong Ahafo and Ashanti, Mr Charles Haizel, said preliminary assessment by his men indicated that the snakes moved to the communities and laid their eggs as a result of a bushfire in a forest in the area.
He said samples of the snakes had been taken for further studies and identification, adding that it could also be that the recent heavy rains might have washed them from where they were hatched to the communities.
The two communities were gripped with fear and panic after the invasion of their homes and shops by hundreds of the snakes.
Since last Monday, the residents have been living in great trepidation, especially when the snakes, three different types, emerged from holes in homes and street sides, usually after 7p.m. each day.
As many as 87 snakes were killed one night in a single house.
It became worse last Wednesday night when the lights went off. Most of the members of the community, especially the youth, went out on a snake-killing spree.
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