Editorial December 18th 2020

Welcome to this week’s editorial, It was, and still is, a year like no other. That being the case it will also be a Christmas like no other to most of us. The annual fireworks in Batemans Bay have been understandably cancelled as the smell of smoke might well trigger memories. I imagine that, like in myself, the smell of wood smoke in the air immediately triggers a panic reaction that brings to mind acrid, smoke filled, blood red skies and the fear and trepidation of not knowing what to expect around the next corner. There is little doubt we all share that, and there is little doubt those memories will remain deep seated to be triggered at a later time by the sound of a helicopter or even an innocent alert from the Fires Near Me App. We are very much a region under repair. Just a week out from Christmas and the announcement of the Northern Beaches COVID breakout there will be a new trepidation by residents on the South Coast of the impacts of visitors to the region from places unknown. The community rallied around the localised cases discovered earlier in the year that were well managed however with the annual swell in population from Boxing Day on all we can do is keep our fingers crossed. This is not alarmist. It is simply stating the obvious that the country is still exposed to COVID, and while it is, we are too. The downside of lingering COVID and any threat of return is that it affects our financial well being. The South Coast was already struggling long before the bushfires happened. Our tourism industry was hammered and then further slammed by COVID. Now we have a hint of light at the end of the tunnel as we open up cafes, venues, shops and entertainment. But we must remain safe and we must remain vigilant. In the coming weeks and months there will be many new faces on the coast, hopefully enjoying summer days and all we have to offer. They will be able to readily see the environmental damage from the fires and in some cases see building recovery. What they won’t see is the hurt that many of us still have, of our loss of trust, the loss of sense of security, of our financial losses and the sadness of the loss of friends who have now moved away. What they will see, however, if they look closely, is a collective strength to move on and a strength that comes from being a community helping, understanding and respecting each other. An therein lies our Christmas spirit. Until next—Lei