Welcome to this week’s editorial, This week sees the recognition of one year since the start of the Currowan bushfire. The Bay Post and Narooma News printed a bumper 40 page collectors edition they called “Reflect and Renew” with anecdotes and images that “shared the stories of our community’s recovery as a “record of our resilience and a celebration of the courage and compassion that makes our community so special”. To mark the anniversary of the start of the fires Council this week set their flags at half mast. While it might be a time to reflect on the past it is also the time when we look ahead at the coming bushfire season and ask “What have we learnt?, What has been done to prepare?” Some good news is reports that telecommunications are more resilient with new power back-up systems installed by Telstra, and the shire’s evacuation centres are being hard wired with back-up power connections before Christmas. The power network is more robust with new poles, and Essential Energy has even delivered standalone power supplies in remote communities. Additionally Council expect to have built 14 new fire resilient concrete bridges, replacing timber structures lost in the fires and the highways and local roads are now less susceptible to tree fall, with significant burnt and hazardous trees being removed. Other good news are reports that businesses throughout the shire, including aged care facilities and petrol stations have taken steps to be more prepared for disasters with some adding permanent back-up power systems while others have worked on their ‘stay in place’ plans.
As a community we have seen first hand the impacts of the fires, to wildlife, to residents, to homes and to our economy. We have also witnessed the failure of Local, State and Federal government to have anticipated the inevitable and predicted fire-storms we can come to expect from climate change. Whilst locally our Council might say “In 2019 we saw the driest conditions in recorded history, while in 2020 we’ve seen three floods and have La Niña in play,” this weekend is predicted to set an all-time record for Australia’s hottest ever November day with the mercury rising close to 50C with a 4500km-long heatwave moving across the Nation. This week saw Council vote to block a third expert scientist to a seat on their Coastal Committee saying they already had two and that was enough. This is the same Council who refuse to accept Climate Change. This is the same Council who say everything is OK because we have La Niña in play. Fortunately La Niña is aiding the rebirth of the 80% of forest we lost and the clawback of wildlife so devastated by the fires. As the hint of wood smoke drifts across the region there are many who will look back at the last year and realise that little has changed and most of the recommendations of the Inquiries and Commissions will go unheeded. And they will know the only one they can truly rely on is themselves, their family and their community and hope they never live through that experience again. Until next— lei