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  • Writer's pictureThe Beagle

Open letter to Councillors regarding Narooma Evac Centre NOT being open for evacuees on Jan 23rd

Dear Councillors, Just so that you can NOT claim you have not been informed. On Thursday January 23rd 3pm the Council announced (via a media release) for MORUYA.

Moruya evacuation centre now open

The evacuation centre in Moruya opened today at 2.30pm today for residents needing to evacuate and will stay open until no longer required.

Moruya evacuation centre: Moruya Basketball stadium, in the showgrounds, Albert Street, Moruya. The alert at the time for Moruya, West Moruya, Mogendoura and Wamban was: · If you are in the areas of Moruya, West Moruya, Mogendoura and Wamban, you are at risk. MEANWHILE further south in the same 3pm Council update it said: On Thursday afternoon beginning around 1pm onJanuary 23rd the residents of Tilba, Mystery Bay, North Narooma and Wagonga were advise by the RFS to make their way to Narooma ahead of the approaching fires. At 1:03pm If you are in the Dignams Creek area, on the western side of the Princes Highway, leave now towards Narooma if the path is clear. At 1:45pm -The fire is burning towards the area of Wagonga Scenic Drive.

If you are in the Wagonga Scenic Drive area, leave now towards Narooma if the path is clear. At 2:25pm If you are in the Wagonga Scenic Drive area, leave now towards Narooma if the path is clear. The first communication from the Eurobodalla Operations Centre was at 2:57pm Jan 23rd. It advised:

Moruya evacuation centre now open

The evacuation centre in Moruya opened today at 2.30pm today for residents needing to evacuate and will stay open until no longer required.

Moruya evacuation centre: Moruya Basketball stadium, in the showgrounds, Albert Street, Moruya. This advice regarding Moruya was repeated at 7pm with NO mention of Narooma at all other than: Tilba and Mystery Bay area

· If your plan is to leave or you are not prepared, leave now towards Narooma if the path is clear.

Dignams Creek

· Leave now towards Bega if the path is clear.

· The Princes Highway has been impacted between Narooma and Dignams Creek.

West Narooma - Wagonga Scenic Drive area

· Leave now towards Narooma if the path is clear. By this stage the residents of Tilba, Mystery Bay, North Narooma and Wagonga had already evacuated their homes and were assembled in Narooma as advised. They went to the Narooma Leisure Centre. Why? It was part of their Bushfire Plan that they had been asked to prepare. It was the location for information, for support, for food and for safety. Many in the community heeded the warning, packed up their bags once again and drove to town expecting to find their PLANNED Narooma Evacuation centre open. It wasn't. It was locked shut. There was no notice on the door, no information. Nothing. Those community members who had previously evacuated to the Centre on New Year's Eve knew to make their way to the Nata Oval to find a parking spot. It took less than an hour to fill the oval as people poured into the town, leaving their homes and following the RFS advice that were being dispatched via the Fires near Me app and as text messages to their phones. Councillors, What ensued at Narooma that day was less than acceptable given the enormity of the emergency. Your community arrived, seeking shelter, seeking information, seeking support and leadership and found .... a locked door. The very first official mention of the Narooma Evacuation Centre came in a media release at 10pm that night People sheltering somewhere safe in Narooma should stay where they are overnight. The Narooma Leisure Centre is now open for people to shelter if required. It is not an evacuation centre. Narooma residents unable to return home tonight due to fires can call Disaster Welfare to arrange emergency accommodation: call 1800 422 322. then the update from the Eurobodalla Emergency Operations Centre update 23 January 11.50pm said: The Narooma Leisure Centre opened briefly for shelter this afternoon but is now closed. Anyone needing shelter can go to Club Narooma. If they haven’t already, residents of fire-impacted areas west of Narooma unable to return home tonight can call Disaster Welfare to arrange emergency accommodation: call 1800 422 322. Councillors, To ensure that you can not say "I wasn't aware" here are just some of the hundreds of comments across social media in regards to the failure of Council to open the Narooma Evacuation centre and have it in readiness to provide information on how to source emergency accommodation, provide water, provide information and most of all provide leadership. There is NO DOUBT that from the very first RFS instruction for residents to evacuate from Dignams Creek around 1pm that Council could not have ensured that the Centre doors were open, updated information on emergency accommodation available, possible provision of water made available and at least someone there to meet and greet instead of a LOCKED DOOR. Following many phone calls, inboxes and texts The Beagle posted this at 2:26pm EVACUATION CENTRES: as at 2:20pm

Bega Valley Council advise that the Bega Showground is being reestablished as an evacuation centre for people needing a safer place this afternoon as the bushfire emergency develops.

There is NO advice from Eurobodalla Council for Narooma and Moruya residents requested to evacuate

A phone call to Council by the Beagle at 2:15pm was diverted to its after hour phone service where the operator had no information to provide advising that Council offices had closed.

The Council website and Council Facebook has no information posted.

If you are evacuating to Narooma or Moruya follow the RFS advice:

If you are threatened by fire

Do not be in the path of the fire. Protect yourself from the heat of the fire. Wear protective clothing and footwear. Cover all exposed skin. If the fire impacts, seek shelter in a solid structure to protect yourself from the heat of the fire. If your life is at risk, call Triple Zero (000). If you are in an area that has already been affected by fire, there may be small areas of active fire burning for some time. Be aware of the dangers of trees and branches falling. The Beagle has been advised that later in the day one local councilor did arrive to sit on a chair outside "and all he could do was say the centre wasn't open and that he had no information." Councillors,

For you information here are some of the hundreds of comments around the failure that the community perceive of Eurobodalla Council (and therefore YOU) in regards to the events in Narooma on January 23rd 2020. M.K "I've just moved to the ACT from Eurobodalla shire. If only Eurobodalla functioned as well. It's not just about funding. It's attitude and community care. There are many things Eurobodalla shire council could learn from ACT government. Start with proactive and preemptive community care." R.L "Council have EVERYTHING to do with leadership, of which, they are sorely lacking. Emergency plan? Was there ever one? And in the instance, of an emergency, how about back up staff? That would boost the local economy; given the amount of monies bequeathed to various parties, perhaps the council could employ extra staff to prepare for future summers and the inherent fire risk we now face, continually over peak fire seasons. Sounds sensible to me. Sick of people passing the buck. It is not wholly up to RFS, SES, to prepare people. Hello council??"

L.D "Once again ESC nowhere to be seen when needed! Where are you Liz? Didn't you learn anything from Bega Valley council on how to handle this? Narooma residents obviously have to fend for themselves. " And from the following day Jan 25th 2020

8am 25th Jan 2020

KLB : Anyone know whether the twice daily briefings at the Narooma Evac centre will resume now that things have flared up? I know everyone is working hard but there seems to be a disturbing lack of information from people on the ground this time around.

9am…. KLB. I’ve just been to the Evac Centre. There is one nice lady there offering support. Have asked her to contact her superior and let them know the community needs a focal point for information, similar to what they had in place at the beginning of the month.

responded to by Lindsay Brown Not at this stage, currently the only official info is available on the rfs app and also eurobodalla shire council facebook and website is up-to-date.

KLB responds ….. With the greatest respect for what you and many others are doing for the community, and I know it takes time, effort and money to man the evac centre. But morale among the clients and friends approaching me is very low and many are feeling abandoned. A lot of people are saying ‘they just want the fires to come through and get it over with’, which is a pretty unhealthy frame of mind to be in. Those told to evacuate on Thursday arrived at a locked building they had come to recognise as their safe place. The website was telling them to go to Moruya Evac Centre at a time the Princes hwy was being closed and Moruya itself was under threat. The apps and websites are helpful but not in those situations. They need more personal contact.

SH says … Thank you KLB for voicing exactly what so many are thinking & feeling, abandoned. I think the council has had several months of this situation to get their 'planning' together. Unprecedented situations need unprecedented responses.

SP adds …. Lindsay I am one of those who, as KLB says, are wishing we could get this over with and if that means living through the fire coming over us, then so be it. Hopefully we will be in a safe place in the centre of town when that happens. I also have the greatest respect for all you have done stepping up as you have as a volunteer at the evac centre, and I know we are not to be complacent, but we had been lulled into a false sense of security with the campaigns to bring people back to our towns and the news about containment lines being established. Now the fires are even closer and Thursday was likely the most dangerous time of the last four times for me, personally, where I live in Narooma, and regrettably the system of support was shut down, prematurely in my view. And the campaign to bring people back was ill advised too, in my view. But that is me having a rant. Thank you for stepping up and doing all you do, but feeling ill-informed just adds to the stress levels and if you could convey that message to your council colleagues I'd be grateful.

LG adds …… Absolutely 100% agree KLB... We were all over prepared last time and this time it feels like its every man for himself... No information, no clue as to wether it is safe to return and the council page was only updated yesterday afternoon and is NOT up to date. This morning the rfs page showed 2 out of control fires one in bodalla and one on horse island road. It's disappeared now so do we just presume it's out?? I live 200 metres away from horse island road ... do I attempt to go home? Live traffic shows no road closure yet I'm told the road is blocked? Call the police station and it rings through to a message system ?? Where's the info ?

MS added to the comments …… I was beginning to think I was alone thinking the Council (who are responsible for the operation of the Evac/Leisure Centre) have “moved forward” & no longer have an interest in this awful ongoing situation ?! We have been told repeatedly not to be complacent but seems like the people we rely on have failed us the past few days. Lindsay Brown the website was not up to date Thursday night when it said to go to Leisure Centre for shelter but it was locked & in darkness with no notice for a Plan B & evacuated people wandering around the car park not knowing where they were going to spend the night Seems we are no longer “flavour of the month”😖

and the only evac centre listed was moruya, all well and good if you were north if the road closure at Tuross/Coila... what were the elderly supposed to do ?? It took 24 hours for council to update the website and Facebook page... nothing from 4pm Thursday until 6pm Friday... No info at all !! no update when everything had flared up again at a time when people NEEDED information !!

Just not good enough & this one is solely a Council stuff up! Seems they just rested on their past laurels when the media was around ?

Where’s the Council comments or Liz Innes with a Facebook video on this disorganisation or Lindsay Brown or Warren Sharpe. Why have they all gone silent when this has been such a stuff up this time round?? Very disappointing & disconcerting ☹️

Maybe you need to get the media involved again. Publicity usually gets the authorities interested quickly. They could use some of the donations to open and man the evacuation centres. Pay the volunteers.

I fully support and echo the above concerns and would like to add some more 'food for thought'. 1. Yes we all need to have our fire plans in place for the foreseeable future, however many fire plans include coming to Narooma as advised by the app you are requesting us to follow; therefore the leisure centre should be manned when these extreme fire danger days are upon us.

There are MANY people in our community who have been putting their hands up to help in the community. Perhaps we can have a rotating roster of volunteers to help admit people to the evac centre in Narooma on these occasions?

2. There was time to plan for the leisure centre to be open and manned for Thursday as there were 30 odd firemen deployed from Sydney at 12pm on Thursday to assist with these fires.

3. The number of people evacuating shouldnt determine the level of care, consideration and access to resources.

4. These fires aren't going anywhere until they run out of fuel or we get days of constant decent rain to put them out, therefore a longterm plan for evacuation protocol and procedures by council would perhaps be a good idea?

5. Community members need leadership, information and effective communication to feel safe and respected, being told to just follow an app that isn't up to date could potentially lead to loss of lives

ED comments….. also personally feel that the Fires Near Me app has been painfully inconsistent over the past few weeks, and yet we are being urged to get our updates from it...??!

SD adds …. im finding the app more frustrating than helpful these days. I completely understand thats its NSW and not just our shire which is why I expect more from council. It shouldn't be left to those working on the frontline keeping us safe to relay information and keep us informed. We get told not to listen to 'people on the street' but what else do we have when there is silence from council?

CR wrote…. ll we could see last night from our balcony was a massive red glow just across the lake 😔 Still no information as to whether we need to be alert and ready or not yet! Dalmeny was totally forgotten about last time (majority of residents weren’t even aware of the twice daily meetings in Narooma until 3/4 of the way through the event) and this time it’s been radio silence for Dal (again) even though the fire is just on the other side of Mummaga 🙄

SD responded …. i agree, its difficult to not feel mistrusful of information when it isnt given accurately or in a timely manner. It is negligent to tell us to assume the idea of 'no news is good news'. People are rightly concerned for their welfare and we all now know that these fires create their own weather and wind conditions so as you say, the situation can change rapidly to an emergency.

EW writes…. Evacuated to Narooma and council are fighting with business chamber and refusing to open up. Lindsay Brown said go to Moruya but too dangerous. This is just a joke.

Situation at Narooma gets worse. Rotary are going around asking everyone to move so they can mark up the oval tomorrow for their market on Sunday. All other markers have been cancelled but they are going around people camped on the oval who have lost their houses and telling them they have to move. Also they have reported that people have dumped their junk there. It's people whose houses have burned who have put stuff there then gone off to do things and coming back. They finally opened the centre this morning and doing registrations. The centre was locked by 9pm last night and the oval was full some cars had six people and dogs sitting in the car sleeping. There we're tourists people with sick children. The club allowed people to stay in the end and 50 people slept there. The attitude of the rotary telling everyone to move to some other park is the last straw. So there you have it Councillors, some of the sentiments of your community about YOU. While it might be easy for you to say "it isn't our job" and blame someone else YOUR community looks to its Council for leadership, for communication, for facilities and YOUR community, in this regard, have found you seriously lacking. Councillors, you no doubt have to admit, reading the above that you COULD DO BETTER. In revealing the sentiment above Councillors might think that this is just another excercise in Council bashing. It is NOT. It is the thoughts, opinions, frustrations and sometimes the anger that was expressed by YOUR community who believe that YOU let them down. Please consider that. The community was looking for leadership and "You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting.” Daniel 5:27

Narooma's Councillor Lindsay Brown: In closing I must communicate a constant message that I received from across the wider Narooma community with EVERYONE commending Councillor Brown for being at the evacuation centre day in, day out. He was complimented on his calming manner, his real concern, his commitment and his continued presence. Even when the centre was locked he parked himself outside on a chair and offered what advice he could to those who arrived at the Leisure Centre seeking information, support and guidance.


NOTE: Comments were TRIALED - in the end it failed as humans will be humans and it turned into a pile of merde; only contributed to by just a handful who did little to add to the conversation of the issue at hand. Anyone who would like to contribute an opinion are encouraged to send in a Letter to the Editor where it might be considered for publication

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