BizRebuild Co-ordinator Lisa Paul Interview with Sophie Longden, ABC South East NSW Breakfast

Sophie Longden, host: And talking of amazing transformations in our community, a convoy of 10 trucks, transporting 10 demountable buildings on loan from ATCO will arrive in the bushfire devastated village of Mogo this weekend. And that'll make the start of work on BizBuilds new Mogo pop up mall. It's an extraordinary weekend event planned for the community of Mogo and surrounds. And to tell us a little bit more about the plans, about the recovery effort and about hopes for the future, I'm delighted to say that Lisa Paul, who is one of the organisers of this event, is on the line for a bit of a chat this morning. Lisa, hello.

Lisa Paul, BizRebuild co-ordinator:

Hi, how are you?

Sophie: Very well, thank you. Now so exciting. You're in Mogo at the moment?

Lisa: Yes, and we're going to spend a day, other than watching 10 convoys with ATCO demountables on them arrive, we'll be spending lots of money in the local community.

Sophie: Fantastic. Now, Lisa, give us a little bit of a background to the logistics of pulling all of this together because it's a huge effort. There's a lot of contributions not only from away but also locally.

Lisa: Absolutely, and I thank you for that. The Business Council of Australia represents the biggest employers in Australia, companies like Coles, Bunnings, Woolies, Qantas, Virgin, and so on, and they decided in early January, straight after these fires, that they would support fire effected communities. Big business reaching out to small business. And so, they set up BizRebuild under the guidance of Sir Peter Cosgrove. And I'm the coordinator for BizRebuild for the Business Council of Australia.

Lisa: We went out down to Mogo and found that really about a quarter of those businesses, as you know, have burnt right out. And one of the BCA members is ATCO, as you mentioned. So we got onto ATCO and said, you know what, if we could put up a pop up mall for those burnt out businesses, then they could start to trade while their sites are cleaned, while they go through their insurance and all that sort of stuff, which takes so long. They could start to trade soon.

Lisa: And so, we've actually got a convoy, as you said, of 10 trucks with 10 demountables on them rolling into Mogo at 11 o'clock today to set up this new pop up mall for the traders while their sites get cleared. And I reckon it should be operating and they should be selling their stuff in about three or four weeks.

Sophie: That is extraordinarily exciting. And Lisa, what I think is just so appealing about this whole project is that it's really thinking outside the square, and we are having to do that now. We're grappling with all sorts of things we've never had to deal with before, and there's a lot of really great ideas that are being thrown around, and this is one of them.

Lisa: Isn't that true? Isn't that true? And the wonderful thing about this initiative is it's big business responding directly to small business to get small businesses back on their feet in fire affected communities, because let's face it, business is the glue of any community, isn't it? And if the businesses can't get back on their feet, then really what hope is there for the community? We've done other things too, by the way, like giving some tools, getting Bunnings to give three sets of tools for a business in Batemans Bay that was burned out, Beach House Stairs.

Sophie: It's such a great initiative, and is everybody who loves Mogo knows, the main street, that's what Mogo is all about. Everybody loves the main street of Mogo and it's just one of those places you can't help but stop and just spend some time in that beautiful community. I know driving through Cobargo yesterday too, the devastation there on the main street, a lot of locals really concerned around that. Do you think there's potential to expand this into towns like that?

Lisa: I totally do. I totally do. All they've got to do is ask us and we'll see what we can do. We'd love to come, I think we're coming back down to the Bega Shire week after next maybe. It'd be wonderful to sit. We have sat down with some Cobargo folk, but they were, at that time, focusing on other things, which is fine. We just do whatever the community needs, but we can do it fast.

Sophie: Okay, well that's great news. If there's anybody out there listening to this right now that's thinking maybe this could be something that is well worth you thinking about, I'm thinking also areas such as Rocky Hall, we've had a lot of devastation around various places that could really do with a helping hand, get in touch with us here at the ABC and we'll put you in touch with Lisa and all of the wonderful crews that are involved with the BizRebuild's mission. And Lisa, if people do want to get in touch, they can give us a call here, 1300-810-222, and we'll put you in touch. But what's been great about the Mogo initiative as well is the amount of local contribution too, including the land itself. Now, this is a great story. Tell us a little bit about that.

Lisa: Oh, absolutely. My deputy coordinator, Brigadier Rupert Hoskin, happens to be an engineer. So he goes and says, "Okay, let's look around these sites. Here's a fantastic site, totally clean site, nothing burned on it, but empty. Who does it belong to?" Well, it belongs to the local doctor, Dr Sanjay Singh. And so, Dr Sanjay Singh has incredibly generously donated that land for up to two years maybe, which is incredibly generous. And there's been another piece of land donated across the car park for the local Aboriginal Land Council as well. And those demountables are already up. They came in yesterday. So it's pretty exciting. And I must say, I was talking to Linda from the land council yesterday, and she was looking at it, and she was just in tears. It means that much to be able to get back to business.

Sophie: And Lisa, the other really exciting part of this whole thing is that it's not just about infrastructure, it's not just about putting buildings in place, there's a whole lot of different business support and education and information and vouchers. It really is about putting this town back together in all sorts of ways.

Lisa: Yes, and it's not just Mogo, it is everywhere. Sir Peter Cosgrove had a round table with every single council from four states, Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, all the mayors and the chambers of commerce to talk about what they need. And so, we're ready to go anywhere. Mogo is first cab off the rank, or should I say first semi-trailer off the rank.

Sophie: Fantastic. Lisa, it's so exciting. Now, if people did want to head along and support what's happening in Mogo today, as you mentioned that convoy coming through about 11 o'clock today?

Lisa: Yeah, I get there a bit early, have some brekkie, buy something, spend your money and have an ice cream. They'll be rolling in at 11 o'clock. It'll be the place to be.

Sophie: And we are talking about road trips to recovery today. It is amazing when you get out there into our regional areas and you stop off and have a chat to people in these various towns, and also seeing the transformation of the landscape, it's well worth doing. I think if anybody's sitting in maybe in Canberra or Sydney and thinking maybe I should get out there, it's a great time to be out and about.

Lisa: It's a fantastic time to be out and about, and a project like this not only gets people out and about, but also create heaps of local employment. So all the guys who are going to be helping put this demountable together, building a deck out the front of it, doing the inside electrical work, they're all local, so isn't that amazing?

Sophie: Lisa, I can't wait to see the photos and I can't wait to take a drive to Mogo and have a look at all the work that you guys have been doing. Congratulations on such a wonderful effort, and I look forward to seeing this sort of pop up happening across the Southeast in coming weeks and months.

Lisa: Thank you. It's our privilege and a pleasure.

Sophie: Thanks so much, Lisa. Lisa Paul there, one of the coordinators of that really exciting initiative, the BizRebuild in Mogo, the popup mall, the community rebuild. It's all being supported by a whole range of terrific organisations, The Business Council and community groups as well.