3 January 2022

Two years after Black Summer bushfires, the Bega Valley continues to rebuild

| Albert McKnight
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Bega Valley Shire Council has written to ratepayers who lost their homes in the bushfires.

Damage from the Black Summer bushfires in the Bega Valley Shire. Photo: Supplied.

It has been two years since the Black Summer bushfires started to tear through the Bega Valley, smothering the region and stealing the lives of four people.

To mark the second anniversary of the disaster, Bega Valley Shire Council’s flags will fly at half-mast on Friday (31 December).

The fires covered about 60 per cent of the shire, which lost 467 homes, about 1000 sheds and outbuildings, as well as those four lives as the flames raced across the region for weeks.

READ ALSO: Donation of trees to bushfire-impacted Quaama park is a symbol of hope

Council’s acting CEO Anthony McMahon said the community could be proud of what has been achieved over the last two years, although the region still had a considerable journey ahead of it.

“Recovery is an ongoing process – there’s no quick fix – and everyone is at a different stage in their personal recovery journey,” he said.

“For many, the anniversary of the Black Summer bushfires will bring back memories and emotional responses. It’s important we continue to look after each other by reaching out and checking that friends, neighbours and loved ones are okay.”

Mr McMahon said the council’s Bushfire Recovery Support Service case managers still provide individualised support to those impacted by the bushfires covering various areas, such as housing and homelessness issues, grant applications, environmental concerns, anxiety and trauma-related to anniversaries, and the compounding effect of COVID-19 lockdowns.

“We focus on both current and longer-term recovery needs, and we continue to work closely with other agencies, philanthropic and charitable organisations to specifically address housing and sanitation issues,” he said.

READ ALSO CSIRO and NSW Rural Fire Service fighting bushfires as a united front

He explained the COVID-19 pandemic had also added another level of challenge to the recovery and rebuilding process.

“Over the last two years, 42 new dwellings have been completed and 50 are under construction,” he said.

“COVID-19 lockdowns created a spike in development applications to council at a time when more people were preparing to rebuild after losing homes during the bushfires.”

Mr McMahon said a key priority now was to secure more donations to the Bega Valley Community Disaster Relief Fund so it can continue to support bushfire-impacted residents.

“So far, more than $600,000 has been distributed back into the community. However, there are still many people who need support,” he said.

“We must continue to be there for them, but we need additional donations to do this.”

In November, many of the shire’s residents who were still in temporary accommodation were given a little more certainty when the council unanimously agreed to allow them to stay on their land in such accommodation for an extra two years, under certain conditions, from January 2022.

The decision was made in response to the expiry of the two-year grace period provided by the NSW Government following the fires.

In October, council’s Recovery, Rebuilding and Resilience project lead Chris Horsburgh told About Regional there were still 143 clients of the council’s recovery support service living in temporary accommodation on their fire-impacted properties.

If you require mental health support, call the 24-hour Mental Health Line on 1800 011 511.

If you need assistance with urgent temporary housing, phone Link2Home on 1800 152 152.

You can donate to the Bega Valley Community Disaster Relief Fund via bank deposit online or at your local bank branch.

Account Name: SJA Disaster Relief Fund
BSB: 633 000
Account Number: 171 166 317.

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