Tathra bushfire recovery transitions as ‘psyche’ shifts

Bushfire recovery coordinator Euan Ferguson said the “preexisting social fabric” of Tathra has played a big part in the healing process.

“If there’s a success, it’s in the way the community has responded to this,” Mr Ferguson said.

As he begins to step away from his role and Bega Valley Shire Council’s Tathra and District Fire Recovery Support Service takes the reins, Mr Ferguson said he has witnessed a change in the “psyche” of the community, as demolition quickly becomes rebuilding.

“The normal council receptionists will be able to direct people to government agencies or to connect with people who can address any issues they have,” he said.

He said state and federal funding will help employ the equivalent of 2.5 full time staff members, including two Recovery and Resilience Officers, who will will work with residents or visitors needing support.

“The effort of this council is unparalleled,” Mr Ferguson said.

“Any concerns which we heard early on about council were put to bed.

“It’s a real success story.”

Mr Ferguson said initial priorities involved reuniting families, making sure evacuees were fed and sheltered, and setting up committees to help plan the recovery effort.

With over 40 years’ experience in fire and fuels risk management, community engagement and emergency management leadership, Mr Ferguson said the most important element of regular public meetings was bringing people in similar situations together.

Bega MP Andrew Constance described council’s response to the disaster as the “benchmark” for future local government relief efforts.

Emergency services minister Troy Grant also visited the region on Friday to announce one fifth of the $10million bushfire care package will go towards dealing with waste at the Eden Waste Depot.

Mr Grant said, while the issue of asbestos has been “largely dealt with”, it has “really challenged some other recovery efforts”.

“There will be more [money] to come, as more issues are identified and people continue to progress through the recovery stage,” he said.

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