Port Macquarie-Hastings Council hosts community engagement meeting to help those affected by bushfires

HELP IS AT HAND: People affected by the bushfires were given lots of information by agencies at Wauchope Showground.
HELP IS AT HAND: People affected by the bushfires were given lots of information by agencies at Wauchope Showground.

A community recovery meeting for people affected by the recent bushfires has been held at Wauchope Showground, and others will follow.

Representatives from Port Macquarie-Hastings Council and key agencies including the Office of Emergency Management, Rural Fire Service, Fire and Rescue NSW, Disaster Welfare, Rural Resilience Program, Department of Primary Industries, Public Works Advisory Group, Red Cross and Telstra answered questions and provide advice and assistance.

Council's general manager Craig Swift-McNair said it was part of the overall recovery for the Port Macquarie-Hastings area.

"The Office of Emergency Management has a raft of information online. If you don't have a computer, go to one of our libraries and ask for help," he said.

"One of the key issues is to look after your mental health and the next few weeks will be crucial for people who've lost homes or income."

Adrian Guthrie lost his home in Upper Pappinbarra and says he has received very specific help and many expressions of support and kindness.

"I'm overwhelmed," he said.

"To get official help, you have to contact the authorities, they don't come to you, but it's fairly straightforward and very streamlined. I wasn't insured. It's a massive disaster across New South Wales and across Australia, and this is just the beginning of it.

"It's not summer yet, and the Bureau of Meteorology have just predicted a long hot summer, which is incredibly daunting, and it's very frustrating when politicians say this has nothing to do with climate change. It's enough to make you a very angry voter."

Mayor Peta Pinson said the council's doors were open.

"We are here for you. Whatever help we can be, just ask," she said.

So far, the council have examined timber bridges, and are planning to replace the one at Right Arm in Upper Pappinbarra which was destroyed. Arborists have tagged unsafe trees and vegetation and crews will be cleaning roads up over the next few months.

The tennis courts and playground at Pappinbarra were largely destroyed and will be replaced, and council staff aim to visit Rollands Plains and Redhill Road when it is safe to do so.

District Officer Stuart Robb from the Rural Fire Service said that 19 fires are still burning across the Mid Coast, all at advice level.

"Crews have been working continually over the past six weeks. Unfortunately, the climate is significantly dry and short of water," he said.

Inspector Brad Harrison from Fire & Rescue NSW said people can help themselves by having a bushfire plan, cleaning up their properties and getting pumps and hoses ready.

The Post Office is offering a free change of address. The Salvation Army have grants of $500 for people who have lost their home or income, whether they were insured or not. Phone 1300 662 317.

Heather Smith from Pappinbarra asked why the council didn't have an emergency response co-ordinator and was advised that the council website will soon be updated with useful information. Council will also support a BlazeAid camp in the next few days to build fences for people who lost them.

Jeannette Rainbow from Pappinbarra was concerned about water.

"We cannot afford any visitors until we have got water. Can we start excavating and preparing for when the rains come, and put storage areas in to capture the rain when it comes?" she asked.

There are two types of disaster assistance available:

  • Disaster Relief Grants: Administered by the NSW State Government via the Office of Emergency Management.
  • Payments administered by the Australian Government.

Disaster Relief Grants

You might be eligible for a Disaster Relief Grant (pdf) if your home or essential contents have been damaged by a bushfire.

To apply call Disaster Welfare Services: 1800 018 444. Monday to Friday 8.30am- 4.30pm

Australian Government Disaster Grant:

Visit the Department of Human Services website or contact the Australian Government Information Hotline on 180 22 66 to find out about the Federal Government's $1,000 grant.

For clean-up assistance:

If you're insured, contact your insurer. If you're uninsured, contact Public Works Advisory on 1800 88 55 39.

Small Business Grants:

Grants of up to $5,000 are available for businesses affected directly by bushfire. Phone Rural Assistance Authority on 1800 678 593 or visit www.raa.nsw.gov.au

Primary Producer Grants:

Grants of up to $15,000 are available for primary producers affected by bushfires. Phone Rural Assistant Authority on 1800 678 593 or visit www.raa.nsw.gov.au/disaster-assistance

Psychological Assistance

Free face-to-face support or telephone counselling with a mental health practitioner: North Coast - Connect to Wellbeing 1300 160 339

Are you insured?

Contact the Insurance Council of Australia on 1800 734 621.

Support for Landholders

Local Land Services and NSW Department of Primary Industries are helping landholders impacted by bushfires. The Agriculture and Animal Services Functional Area (AASFA) provides emergency fodder. Call 1800 814 647 for emergency fodder and emergency water and to report stock loss and damage.

Thousands of tonnes of hay are available at Wauchope Showground, being distributed by Norco staff.

A DPI spokesman said water will become a really big issue in this recovery, there is a massive impact on livestock, plus wildlife, and when we have rain events, ash and silt will end up in rivers, killing fish.

Replacing personal documents

Service NSW can replace many of your personal documents free of charge. Visit your nearest NSW Service centre of call 13 77 88.

Legal assistance:

Legal Aid NSW lawyers can provide free legal advice on issues like insurance, tenancy and credit and debt problems. Phone 1800 801 529 www.legalaid.nsw.gov.au

Hazard identification notices:

You may find a hazard identification notice on your property when you return after a bushfire. Phone Public Works Advisory on 1800 88 55 39.

Housing Assistance:

The Department of Communities and Justice Housing Contact Centre operates 24 hours a day and can help with temporary accommodation and housing enquiries and assistantce. Ring 1800 142 142 or 1800 422 322.

For more recovery information, go to www.emergency.nsw.gov.au or the NSW Disaster Recovery Facebook page or phone the Disaster Welfare Assistance Line on 1800 018 444 (8.30am-4.30pm)

Help with Waste Services:

For homes and outbuildings damaged or destroyed in the fires, Port Macquarie-Hastings Council will waive all general waste fees for waste received at the Cairncross facility until February 29 2020.

For information about asbestos waste, hazardous materials, danagerous debris, metal waste or more information, ring council on 6581 8111.

Farmer Joe's Pantry at 19 Commerce Street in Wauchope is open every Wednesday and Friday from 10am to 2pm if people need to restock with non-perishable food. They also have free clothes and toys.

Free hampers of food and cleaning products are available to people affected by the bushfires at Wauchope Showground. Call at the office and ask for Heather, Scott or Bev.