Dollars are finally flowing to landowners impacted by the long-running and vast Yankees Gap Bushfire of 2018, west of Bega.
The fire that sprung from an unattended private burn on August 15 on Yankees Gap Road at Bemboka, went on to also threaten the communities of Numbugga, and Brogo over the 44 days that followed.
Hideous conditions on August 15 and September 15 especially destroyed four homes, and consumed sheds, fencing, livestock, pastures and bushland over a 20,000 ha fire ground.
The hot, long and distressing experience came just five months after the Reedy Swamp, Vimy Ridge, Tathra Bushfire that claimed 65 homes.
The scale of what happened at Tathra and surrounds prompted a response from people and communities around Australia that contributed over $1.5 million to the Bega Valley Mayor’s Tathra and District Bushfire Appeal. Most of that money has now been distributed to people who lost their homes or were badly impacted.
The impact of the Yankees Gap Fire has been somewhat lost in the overwhelming need of Tathra.
Last month Bega Valley Shire Council announced it had finally secured funding to help 16 landowners replace fencing – 9 months after the flames.
Matt Kimber is a ‘real farmer’ on 22,000 acres at Numbugga and was hit hard when the fire ran on September 15.
“We had about 10 minutes from when we saw it to when it went through our sheds,” Matt says.
“Family and fireries saved every building on the place, we ended up losing 500 acres of grass, roughly 15 km of fencing, and we did lose about a dozen calves.”
The Kimber’s run a big dairy and sheep operation that takes in Numbugga, Angledale and Cann River.
Sharing a boundary with the Snowy Mountains Highway, Matt and his family had no choice but to get those burnt out fences back up sooner rather than later, juggling stock between other properties while the work got done.
“We have about 5 km to go, boundary fences are the most expensive and we have done most of them,” Matt says.
“Now that we’ve been able to get the grant it will be a hell of a help.”
Matt says fencing costs range between $12,000 and $15,000 per kilomentre.
“We are building steel fences now and using no wood at all,” he laughs.
“I just want to commend the fireries – so easy to get on with from a farmers perspective.”
Michelle De Friskbom is the Kimber’s neighbour, the flames from Matt’s place advanced over the highway and on to her family’s property.
“We lost a lot of fencing, cattle yards, and what we called our farm tip – our paddock full of useful stuff,” she says.
While grateful for the grant funds now available, Michelle says the wait has been hard for many.
“The other thing that is disappointing is that it can’t be claimed retrospectively, people have had to repair fences in the hope of being able to claim it back only to find out that isn’t the case,” she says.
“I am so glad people at Tathra have been able to access what they have, but for us out here, it was a bit of a letdown.”
The grant just secured by Council is worth $210,000 and is a Drought Relief Grant from the Federal Government to assist people in the Yankees Gap bushfire region replace boundary and internal fencing lost or damaged.
A Council spokesperson says the “terms of the grant from the Federal Government are very specific. We have followed up with them and this cannot be changed. We are looking at any State capacity to support this.”
“The Mayoral Appeal funds were donated specifically for Tathra and district and according to ATO legislation, it cannot be used for those impacted by the Yankees Gap Fire.”
In response to concerns about the time taken to get the funding, Council says its hands were tied.
“The process took some time as we needed to have approval from the Federal Government for the funding,” the spokesperson says.
“Council acknowledges the disappointment and frustration of some of the Yankees Gap landholders, but the delay in the release of funding has largely been out of our control.
“Council has made available to Yankees Gap and surrounding areas the same level of support that was available to Tathra and District through the waiving of fees, and green waste collections, etc.
“The Support Service is still available and is working with individuals from both events.”
Quick, ready access to relief funds have helped the Tathra community recover, unfortunately, the experience has not been replicated for some around the Yankees Gap blaze. To that end, Bega Valley Shire Council is investigating a standing fund for disaster support where donations can be made.
Yankees Gap and Tathra Bushfire support services and advice:
Australian Red Cross
Recovery Officer – Linda Mayo, phone 0438 901 481; email [email protected]
South East NSW Primary Health Network/Coordinare
Free counseling is available, visit their website to find a local provider or call 4474 8410.
Bega Valley Shire Council’s Fire Recovery Support Service
Anne, June, and Carolyn, phone 6499 2475; email [email protected]