NSW Labor leader Jodi McKay called for drought support for struggling, regional small businesses in the form of $50,000 no interest loans during her visit to Armidale this week.
She flew into Armidale with Shadow Minister for Finance and Small Business Daniel Mookhey on Wednesday morning to speak with Armidale Regional Councillors, members of the Armidale Business Chamber and small business owners as part of a tour throughout rural NSW.
"Armidale is an important place for me to be," she said.
"It's really about me understanding the impacts of drought on communities like Armidale, where it is quite severe.
"We're focusing on small business. Feedback we're getting from communities is that the current government isn't doing enough."
Ms McKay said small business generated economic activity and employment.
"They are also being impacted by the lack of expenditure in communities," she said.
"The government has a drought assistance fund with $100 million in it, and $30 million has not been spent. But small businesses aren't eligible currently and we would like to see small businesses able to access up to $50,000 no interest loans to get them through.
"It's a seven year period they can have it for. It's about recognising that the drought effects the whole community, and small business is forgotten a lot of the time."
Ms McKay said the CWA had already called for the widening of the eligibility of the fund to small businesses and also met with the Armidale branch on Wednesday afternoon
Mr Mookhey thought it should not be too hard for the State Government to provide meaningful relief for small businesses.
"We've seen this government spend millions on Sydney infrastructure projects, but we want small businesses to survive this drought as much as we want farms to survive," he said.
"This is just a very practical solution that says if you're a small business affected by this drought you should be able to ask for a $50,000 no interest loan and have up to seven years to pay it back.
"I think while the Federal Government has a leadership role to play here. But make no mistake we have $30 million in a state government fund that is not spent and a plethora of small businesses in regional NSW saying they need some support. Our simple message to the NSW State Government is change your policy."
Member for Northern Tablelands and Minister for Agriculture Adam Marshall was contacted for comment.