The state's independent inquiry into the unprecedented Black Summer bushfire emergency has heard from residents and property owners, many of whom highlighted the issue of climate change and increased fire risks.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced the six-month NSW Independent Bushfire Inquiry, which is running parallel with the federal government's royal commission, in late January, saying its purpose was to "learn from this season and the catastrophic conditions we've faced and apply these learnings for the future".
The inquiry's ongoing online community meetings heard from Bega Valley and Eurobodalla residents on Wednesday, as it investigates any role "weather, drought, climate change, fuel loads and human activity" had in the cause of the mega-fires.
Residents each had three minutes to share their thoughts with former NSW deputy police commissioner Dave Owens and former NSW chief scientist and engineer and chair Mary O'Kane.
Bushfire Survivors for Climate Action chair and Bega Valley councillor Jo Dodds was one of around 60 people to log on to the online meeting, and she said many speakers focused on the increased bushfire risk brought by climate change.
"If the pandemic had been active during the evacuation to the Bega Showground it would've been a calamity," she said.
"The pandemic is not over yet and could go for another 18 months, and we have another long fire season coming.
"The more prepared we are the safer we are."
She said the issues of mental health and home insurance are crucial to the inquiry, as is communication, which saw "people close to the border having to download two different apps for information".
With a coronial inquiry into the March 2018 bushfire still yet to be held, in October last year the coroner put forward nine recommendations after investigating the lightning-caused Flagview South fire, which included "adaptive firefighting strategies in response to changes in bushfire frequency and behaviour".
The South Coast has helped form the findings of previous inquiries, starting as far back as 1927, when during a state inquiry Bega residents pushed for the creation of local fire brigades across the state, and rejected a plan to only manufacture safety matches.
There have been 18 major bushfire inquiries in Australia since 1939, and Cr Dodds said many findings from the Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission in 2010 are yet to be implemented.
"Clearly whatever the process is of implementation is hasn't resulted in change after previous inquiries," she said.
"We are still making the same mistakes, and the [Victorian] border is still a barrier. They're not even solving the little problems like having lists of vulnerable people and a plan for evacuating nursing homes. These people expect help.
"I hope some compassion is driving both the commissions, because it's definitely driving the commissioners.
"They are listening to human stories, so I hope that translates into strong recommendations that are implemented."
Cr Dodds said despite federal funding in January for mental health, people are falling through the cracks.
"Dealing with people with severe post traumatic stress disorder is a complex issue needing long-term therapy," she said.
"People who evacuated many times and sat through the darkness are feeling negative health effects
"We saw an increase in admissions to mental health after the fires, and from what I've heard that hasn't been the case as much since COVID-19.
"[Bega MP] Andrew Constance has been good at talking about it, but just throwing money at it won't work. We really need to rethink how we deliver these services.
"There's a whole lot of stuff the community will carry for generations."
She said residents are now living on properties they can't insure due to the increased threat, and with many under financial stress they are unable to afford it if they are eligible.
"The whole notion you can prepare sounds great on paper, but when it comes down to the reality of the situation, their futures are uncertain."