FIONA PHILLIPS, MEMBER FOR GILMORE: I’m here today to talk about the one year of the anniversary of the ignition of the Currowan fire on the NSW South Coast. An absolutely devastating fire that tormented my community right up and down the South Coast for 74 days.
I want to send a big shout out to my community, to my emergency services volunteers, the RFS, the SES, everyone. Our power people, our telecommunications people, everyone that worked around the clock to protect people and to protect lives and property.
They did the most magnificent job.
The one year anniversary was a time where I went back and talked with people that I’d talked to just after the fires. Just to check on them to see how they were going. What they told me was that they need more support.
I visited one particular family and they have burnt bushland right around them. They said to me, ‘while we can rebuild our house, we can’t fix that bushland’. That help is not getting through on the ground, they need that support.
I visited another family who counted themselves lucky, they were rebuilding - which was wonderful. They applied for the HomeBuilder grant but they were asked the value of their property, which had just burnt down. They asked again, what was the value of your property? But of course the house had been burnt down. They put applications in and forms in six times.
This is what’s happening to people in bushfire impacted areas and that particular couple counted themselves as lucky – they were one of the families that were starting to have their house rebuilt.
I want to go back to the other family that I was just talking about and that family is just outside of Conjola Park, which people may have heard in the news, at a place called Yatte Yattah. That particular property had a backburn there and basically what they said to me was if there was a greater aerial firefighting capacity that could have actually put that fire out. That’s what they told me.
They were tormented by this. We have to have a sovereign aerial firefighting fleet. We have to do that. That’s what people are telling me and there is no reason why the Morrison Government should not act on that.
The other thing that people are telling me is that they want better telecommunications and power. They never want to have to go through that situation where they can’t talk with their loved ones and they are separated in a community that has no power, no communications with outside world.
We’ve had communities that have basically been separated during the fires. And what’s the Government done? They’ve got an Emergency Response Fund where they haven’t spent a single cent. And what people are telling me is they want their better backup communications power, they want better power. They want everything like that improved so they can have that peace of mind that they can communicate with their fellow people in times of emergency.
We’ve just seen a weekend where we’ve had such extreme temperatures and again our power went out for quite a considerable time, our mobile phones. It’s just not good enough.
The government needs to do better. They need to spend money out of that Emergency Response Fund and they need to get on with it before it’s too late.
REPORTER: The government says it’s purchasing more water bombing aircraft, are they purchasing enough? What needs to happen?
PHILLIPS: I think the government needs to take responsibility for the sovereign fleet and we’ve seen that. And we’ve seen obviously planes coming from various places, but there needs to be a nationally coordinated approach.