Survivng and thriving – Robertson’s have bought more trucks and hired staff to keep up with demand – PHOTO Financial Manager Jerome Hope at front and Kerry Smith seated in cab

Yass Valley is surviving and thriving, thanks in particular to public servants who are still working from home in droves which means they’re spending their lunch breaks in local cafes, shopping here, getting their hair cut or attending to their pets health needs, servicing the car and lining up supplies for weekend DIY projects.

And it’s not slowing down with Yass Valley cited in the top 5 migration growth areas by the Regional Australia Institute.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics data, 56% of Yass Valley’s workforce usually leaves Yass Valley, mostly travelling the Barton Highway across the border to the ACT for work. Except now those commuters are being encouraged not to.

For Roberston’s Yass, the unexpected COVID boom presented an opportunity to expand.

“It was a hot, dry summer, so not much was happening and then COVID, it just got really busy. We had a large increase in people buying firewood, landscaping supplies, and a lot more construction going on because the government is spending money to get the construction projects going. We’ve been delivering a lot of gravels for the cement plants and everyone has been out in the sun keeping busy,” Financial Manager Mr Jerome Hope said.

Mr Hope told Yass Valley Times business had almost doubled due to COVID keeping people at home with demand mainly coming from Yass and Murrumbateman with new houses under construction that need landscaping.

“We’ve had to employ extra staff in landscaping and a truck driver and bought a new truck. Locals call us from home in between work, and you can hear children in the background and the TV going and they’re getting everything organised to spend time on the weekends in the garden. We’re going to have a lot of nice landscaped yards in Yass Valley now,” Mr Hope said.

Former president of the Yass Valley Business Chamber Andrew Curlewis stepped down from the role earlier this month during the Chamber’s AGM to focus on his expanding business Yass Valley Property. Mr Curlewis said the strong local property market is good news for Yass.

Former President of the Yass Valley Business Chamber Andrew Curlewis. Andrew stepped down to focus on his expanding business after successfully steering the chamber through executive changes and COVID. Pictured: Yass Valley property Principal Andrew Curlewis, Sophie Curlewis & Lucy Broers

“We’re listing; we’re selling, we’ve seen no sign of prices softening. Apparently, Australia is in a recession; we’re in the midst of a global pandemic, it’s wintertime, there’s an election. Markets generally hate instability, and we’ve got four big things rolling out at us, and still, we’re selling vacant land blocks at $200,000 and rural properties in the millions.”

Mr Curlewis said the property market is strong all the way through.

“Which is quite unusual, especially in times like this. Like it or not we’re part of the Canberra bubble, and it’s probably the best coal-mine in the country, add onto that Sydney buyers.  Cockies have just come out of a pretty horrible drought, but stock is worth a lot of money at the moment. Yass doesn’t ride on the sheep’s back anymore, there’s a lot of other factors that influence our local economy,” Mr Curlewis explained.

The property market is strong – Yass Real Estate Principal Edwina Brown & assistant Lesley NeveceralProximity to the Canberra market combined with the yearning for more space as city dwellers experienced lockdown has positively affected the Yass Valley market.

Edwina Brown, principal of Yass Real Estate reports the Canberra market grew 0.1%, or 0.7% for the quarter which is good news for Yass Valley.

“There is a huge amount of buyers in the market. If you’re ready to go on the market, don’t hold back thinking the market is weak,” Ms Brown advised.

“A lot of our buyers come out of Canberra, and they are selling their homes within a week of going on the market. So they’ve got huge demand there which is driving huge demand here. We are even finding it with rentals. There are not enough rentals in the market to cater for the demand.”

Ms Brown speculates if working remotely continues, it could trigger metropolitan markets such as Sydney to look further afield to Yass Valley for lifestyle reasons and entering the first home buyers’ market.

“If people are partially working from home and not having to do the daily commute, I think you will see people choose to come out here that probably wouldn’t otherwise.”

Ms Brown said it was also retiree tree-changers wanting to call Yass Valley home.

“We see Sydney retirees wanting to sell, bank money and still have a house of comparable standard when they buy here. Home prices have plateaued, but we certainly haven’t gone backwards, and I think it will continue to bubble along,” Ms Brown said.

The home office need not be in amongst your washing baskets and dirty dishes. The Hub Co-working space at Trader&Co offers a quiet space to work for $55 for a four-day week or space can be hired by the hour.

The Hub at Trader & Co – Chris Rose foreground and Cheryl Enseleit make good use of the co-working space

The Hub’s creator Kate MacMaster said the co-working space is one of many globally.

“With over 17,000 co-working spaces established globally over the last ten years, the benefits of co-working are now well known. The opportunity to connect with other individuals can lead to increased productivity, creativity and collaboration opportunities. Plus, at Trader & Co, just down the hallway, you can access delicious coffee and the wholefood cafes any time you need a break,” Ms MacMaster said.

Toni Neuhaus of Six8 Coffee Roasters serves us a successful mix of friendly smiles, fresh coffee and baked goods.

Newly appointed Yass Valley business Chamber president Mr Glenn Wynn has welcomed the extra hive of activity.

“You can definitely see the people out and about; you can barely get a park some days in the main street!” Mr Wynn said. 

Glen Wynn – Newly appointed Yass Valley Business Chamber President

Many local businesses forced to close during COVID, took advantage of the time to renovate or re-evaluate their business model.

“All of the businesses impacted have come up with amazing ways to change, most businesses are doing home deliveries, some have gone on-line,” Mr Wynn said.

Mr Wynn also believes the working from home model has unexpected benefits for everyone.

“I think it’s only going to help the businesses to thrive. People are going to appreciate Yass for what it is a lot more because they’re seeing that whole different side that they wouldn’t normally,” Mr Wynn surmised.