Even though almost two years have passed since the Black Summer bushfires, the memories of the events remain raw – especially for those who suffered losses in the disaster.
60 per cent of the Bega Valley was burnt and of the 467 dwellings lost in the flames, just 34 have been rebuilt and development approval has been issued for another 78.
This means there are still many people who lost their homes living in temporary accommodation.
“Reasons to do this range from wanting to be on the land to facilitate recovery, to having no viable financial alternative,” a Bega Valley Shire Council spokesperson said.
On 3 November, these residents were given a little more certainty when council unanimously agreed to extend support and allow them to stay on their land in temporary accommodation for an extra two years, under certain conditions, from January 2022.
The decision was made in response to the upcoming expiry of the two-year grace period provided by the NSW Government following the fires.
The government had allowed people affected by the bushfires to temporarily live on land in moveable dwellings for up to two years without development consent.
“While some people have chosen to move to a new property or out of the area, there are still a number of people who have chosen to stay on their land in a caravan or temporary pod,” council’s Director of Community, Environment and Planning Dr Alice Howe said.
“Council’s decision provides an assurance that if you lost your home in the Black Summer bushfires, you can continue to live on your land in a temporary dwelling for another two years while you work through the development assessment process.”
As part of council’s decision, it also acknowledged the “critical shortage” of affordable housing in the shire had made access to alternative accommodation difficult.
In October, council’s Recovery, Rebuilding and Resilience project lead Chris Horsburgh told About Regional there were still 143 clients of council’s recovery support service living in temporary accommodation on their fire-impacted properties.
Mr Horsburgh said some residents have only recently been stepping forward to ask for support, including some who said they had been going okay but issues had compounded over time.
“Recovery is a long and challenging journey. It’s an individual journey for people depending on what level of impact they experienced during the fires,” he said.
“An important factor is what issues were in their lives before the fires. Those everyday challenges didn’t go away – they just got added to by the bushfires.”
For information on whether the two-year extension applies to your circumstances, contact council’s DA Hub on 6499 2209.