Paddleboat towns face long recovery

As floodwaters recede, tourists are returning to Echuca Moama on the NSW-Victorian border to board paddleboats that two months ago were moored to the tops of trees.

In the devastating springtime floods the swollen Murray River engulfed their landing docks in the popular heritage destination.

After two summers effectively lost to COVID-19, tourism and hospitality businesses in the twin towns are pushing forward after the recent floods and doing between 30 and 80 per cent of pre-pandemic trading.

"Considering what we were looking at, we've recovered really, really well," American Hotel owner Dean Oberin told AAP.

But with spring lost in the fight to save the town from floodwaters, for the third year running Echuca Moama has missed out on key "sugar rush" weekends like the Grand Final, Melbourne Cup, and footy and netball trips.

"Once they stop kicking the pigskin around, they're up here on the gas Friday, Saturday and go home Sunday" Mr Oberin said.

"That is significant. The weddings that got cancelled, all those little multiplier effects, six or seven times or whatever it is in a regional town... It's very large."

Parks Victoria has closed riverside campsites due to the danger of trees falling over in flood-eroded soil, putting a further dent in tourist numbers until safety assessments are completed.

Campaspe Shire Mayor Rob Amos said tourism operators were down 30 to 70 per cent for the Christmas season.

"It's been a really tough period... and third year in a row," Cr Amos told AAP, standing above the river bank where a 3km head-height levee is being removed by the SES.

The shire has been throwing events to let Australians know Echuca Moama is open for business.

"There's still events going on. We're running music events in our public gardens," Cr Amos said.

He said some hospitality operators had continued to pay casual staff during the floods to keep them on the books, against the backdrop of industry labour shortages across the country.

Other businesses repurposed staff and provided food to volunteers and workers while they sandbagged the town.

"It's that sort of stuff that no one knows about ... that really digs more into the already depleted pockets of the operators in the area," Cr Amos said.

"But they're open for business again and it is starting to look brighter."

Mr Oberin at the American Hotel said staffing was one of the hardest challenges businesses faced, but locals were keen to get on with things.

"I think the only way forward from here is to actually say... 'We're okay'."

Mr Oberin said business owners and investors needed a clear plan in the face of increasingly common acute weather events.

"Climate change is real. There is going to be more severe oscillations around the norm than what we've had previously. What are we doing about it?"