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NAROOMA: The Bushfires - sharing our stories and ideas for our future

Our Towns Our Say Report Public Meeting 2

Southern Eurobodalla Shire

Sunday 1 March 2020

The Bushfires - sharing our stories and ideas for our future

GENERAL

Our Towns Our Say (OTOS) hosted a public meeting on Sunday 1 March at the Narooma Golf Club. There were over forty participants who came together to share personal stories and to collect ideas to present to the Eurobodalla Council and to inform the OTOS response to the NSW Bushfire Inquiry. The meeting, emceed by Peter Coggan, began with a welcome, Acknowledgement of Country and a brief address as to the meeting’s purpose. The efforts of all those who worked to save lives and property and those who are providing ongoing care and support were recognised by many in attendance.

MEETING STRUCTURE

Facilitators, Janelle Day and Liz Coggan, used a structured process to give those in attendance the opportunity to share stories and to present their ideas relating to what worked and what didn’t before during and after the fires. Community members also provided input by phone, messages and email.

All ideas were recorded, and a red dot voting system was used to identify priorities.

WHAT WORKED

Communication

· Information provided by local radio stations

· Briefings held and some very helpful

· Mid December RFS meeting on developing a fire plan

· Daily summaries of situation on Facebook and email

· SMS emergency advice

· Fires Near Me

· Community Meetings

· Telstra – free calls during emergency

· Twitter messages

· Battery powered/transistor radios

· Beagle information

· Apps – Windy

· BOM radar

· Yellow tape used to indicate RFS checks

· Other indicators – e.g. yellow bins to show people on property

Crisis/Recovery Support

· Work undertaken by RFS and volunteers

· Successful water bombing

· Some front-line council staff were terrific

· Power and phone workers commendable

· Access to alternative (free) accommodation – units, caravans, campers, friends, tents, motels

· Community generosity

· Leadership shown by some Councillors in South Coast Shires

· Volunteers at evacuation centres

· Evacuation centres – once up and running

Business

· Local businesses were very generous

Community

· Community spirit and cohesion exceptional

· Community members checking on each other

· Sharing resources

· Generosity of local service groups

· Neighbour networks

Planning

· Fire plans proved to be helpful when followed

· Stocking up on essential resources by individuals

· Local backburning by landowners

IDENTIFIED PRIORITIES

Communication*

· Failed communications at all levels, hardware and interface

· RFS App needed more frequent updating

· A need for Council organised public meeting – all invited

· Overarching centre to coordinate all groups and foster interagency respect and compliance– permanently set up to enable immediate operation

· Some communication alarmist and not factual

· Lack of recorded directions on Council phone lines

· Police need to have a greater role in alerting people re conditions

· People turned away from caravan park after being advised to go there

· Need to inform visiting RFS units re terrain and areas of actual fires

· Notice boards and loud hailers for information

· Issues with inadequacy of some medical services given lack of access to main centres

Crisis Support/Recovery Support*

· Need for long term support for health, including mental health, issues

· Delays in military deployment problematic

· Military should have bushfire training

· Too much red tape – grants, applications, building

· Mismanagement re distribution of donations – Red Cross, WIRES etc

· RFS workers should be paid

· Mayor/Council should not manage recovery donations/funds

· Relief for tip fees

· Waiving of excess water fees post fires

· Lack of support follow up for some people – power, water, welfare etc

Planning/Prevention*

· Council needs emergency plan based on State Emergency Management Plan

· Timely intervention to stop fires in early stages was needed

· Build knowledge and funding for emergency agencies

· Lack of preparation by agencies and individuals for emergency despite high risk

· Better and coordinated bushfire management – NPWS, Council, Crown Land, Forestry

· Lack of logging clean-up – companies adding to fuel load with poor practice

· Lack of back-up power sources – e.g. generators for fuel pumps

· Lack of human and equipment resources for RFS

· Investigate pros and cons of backburning

· Need plan for support of elderly and nursing home residents

· ESC needs to ensure compliance in emergency plans

· Management of public land to reduce fire risk

· Better planning needed for adequate food and fuel supplies

· Increase supply of mobile generators

· Septic tanks needed to be pumped after fires (big problems when it rained)

· Architectural designs to assist in bushfire protection

· Use of Original Landowner expertise re control of bush

· Sufficient water for owners to defend houses

· Many were too late in evacuating homes – communication issues

Wildlife/ Flora*

· Number of native animals lost to fires and ongoing lack of homes/food

· Better land rehabilitation for flora and fauna

Evacuation/Sites*

· Better organisation of evacuation centres

o Residents were directed to a local evacuation centre that was still locked on their arrival. It was very difficult to obtain any information about its opening times

· Evacuation areas need to be organised to meet the needs of elderly and disabled

· Separate evacuation areas needed for pets and other animals

· Permanent plans needed for future emergency evacuations

· Investigate use of clubs for evacuation

· Evacuation centres – information, privacy and dignity lacking

* Items listed in order of priority as decided by meeting vote

Questions

How can communication to public be improved re approaching fires?

What is the role of Parks and Wildlife in prevention of and fighting bushfires?

How is Council going to use or apportion monies donated to assist in bushfire recovery?

How many RFS tankers per head of population in Eurobodalla Shire?

Does RFS have up to date maps of all, including remote, areas?

CONCLUSION

Participants were thanked for their contribution to the meeting.

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