More support for NT business owners to help manage impact of pandemic restrictions on agriculture, tourism

Rural Business Support (RBS) is expanding its Northern Territory team as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is felt across the Top End and particularly hard within the horticulture and tourism sectors.

Recent new rural financial counsellor Kate Green has filled the shoes of former RBS member Peter Cottle, while a new full-time small business financial counsellor Annette Danaci will start with the organisation next month (October).

Kate and Annette will be based out of the RBS office in Darwin, but will be able to travel to meet with their rural and remote regional clients as required.

RBS CEO Brett Smith will be in Darwin on Tuesday September 22 and Wednesday September 23 to talk with stakeholders about how RBS can help NT business owners to manage the economic challenges and plan for their future on the other side.

“The growth of our services in the Territory has coincided with a sequence of challenges that few could have predicted, but we’re committed to working with our NT clients to help them come out the other side,” Brett said.

“One area we’re closely monitoring at the moment is the limitations with international backpackers coming into the Territory, which is causing some of our clients concern around the availability of workers to harvest melon and mango crops.

“The continuation of extremely dry conditions around Alice Springs is resulting in greater demand for drought concessional loan applications through the Regional Investment Corporation (RIC). Our team can assist clients with this process.

“We’re also seeing more demand for our services as the second dry wet season has horticulturalists thinking more about bushfire control and how to achieve the best returns from irrigation.”

As well as working with primary producers for more than 30 years, RBS now also provides a Small Business Financial Counselling (SBFC) program modelled on the successful Rural Financial Counselling Service (RFCS). Both services are free, independent and confidential to eligible clients.

The new program is the result of additional Australian Government funding through the Regional Recovery Small Business Support Program.

A key feature of the new program is a Professional Services Fund, which approved clients can use to cover the costs of specialist third-party advice beyond the scope of financial counselling services, such as financial planning, marketing and specialist taxation and accounting advice.

“From October RBS will have a full-time Small Business Financial Counsellor available to work with eligible NT business owners beyond farm gates,” Brett said.

“Annette’s appointment will allow us to spread the RBS support net more widely, in particular to work with those businesses that are suffering because of the drop-off in tourism trade due to COVID-19.

“Our team can help to prioritise the important decisions that need to be made now and develop plans to help business owners gain some much needed clarity amid the uncertainty. First up this may involve looking into government grants or other payment options to help ease some of the financial pressure.

“Once working together to consider different options, our team can help clients to put their plans into action and start moving forward.”

RBS can work with clients to:

  • Develop plans to manage cash flow and creditor payments
  • Prepare for talks with lenders and insurance companies
  • Access dispute resolution services
  • Connect with broader professional advice and support
  • Apply for government and community grants, programs or schemes

“Working from our proven case management process, our aim is to ensure that rural business people are aware of their financial position, that they understand the future viability of their business and have the capability and confidence to pursue their business goals,” Brett said.

To be connected with the RBS NT team please call 1800 836 211 or email NT@ruralbusinesssupport.org.au. Rural Business Support thanks NT Seafood Council for use of their office at Northern Australia Development Office (NADO) in Darwin. Supported by the Australian Government and Governments of South Australia and the Northern Territory, RBS is currently working with more than 630 rural business owners across SA and NT.

Media contact:

Brett Smith
CEO – Rural Business Support
0412 630 015