Clean up funding equity desperately needed for bushfire losses

**Update:

**The NRMA are going to manage the cleanup for their customers insured affected by the Rappville fires. This is wonderful news and will mean that those people who’ve lost their homes will have additional funds available from their insurance to either rebuild or move on. Insurers do not have to do this, and I am aware that the NRMA aren’t just doing this for my Dad but for all of their Rappville clients. I don’t quite know how to express my family’s gratitude to them for doing this for this tiny community. 

** NSW Emergency Management have set up air quality monitoring in and around Rappville to ensure that asbestos and other potential hazards are known and reported – at this point I’m assured that there is no concern re airborne asbestos.

This is also great news and will be reassuring to the community.

 

 

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64 homes were destroyed and two people killed in the terrible Busby’s Flat and Drake bushfires in early October that raged over 120,000 hectares in Northern NSW – believed to be deliberately lit.

Another 23 homes were damaged.

Many of these homes – including my father’s – contained asbestos.

A NSW government sign warning of asbestos on the remains of a Rappville property.

It is critical that the NSW Government urgently assist the community with a co-ordinated clean up of destroyed and damaged properties.

While I understand the state government will be funding part of the cleanup following the bushfires, I also understand they will NOT be providing assistance for anyone who was insured – unlike the Tathra bushfire disaster relief last year and the Blue Mountains fire in 2013 where the decision to also support insured properties meant that families would have more funds available to rebuild or re-settle. 

Yet on 26 March 2018, Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Andrew Constance MP – the Member for Bega – announced a $10 million fund to assist with the clean up after the Tathra bushfires.

NSW state government media release 26 March 2018.

Andrew Constance MP also said,

“First, once safe, we need to give time to those who have lost their homes the option to return and see if there is any personal items that can be salvaged,” Mr Constance said.

“Second, we know the quicker the clean-up is completed, the faster the community can heal as a result of this natural disaster, and people can get on with rebuilding.”

In 2014, then-NSW Premier, Barry O’Farrell, announced similar funding of around $10 million in conjunction with the federal government to assist the Blue Mountains community with clean up and recovery after devastating bushfires.

“The scale of the bush fire damage in the Springwood and Winmalee areas is immense, with more than 200 homes destroyed and another 120 properties damaged,” NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell said. “To assist, the NSW Government will work with insurers and fund the clean-up and removal of all bushfire debris, including the disposal of asbestos-contaminated material from destroyed homes.

“This practical assistance means the cost of cleaning-up bush fire debris from a site will not be deducted from a resident’s insurance payout.”

NSW Treasurer Mike Baird added: “We are grateful the insurance industry has agreed to work productively with us to achieve our common goal of the quick and efficient clean-up of bush fire-ravaged sites.”

NSW government 2014 Blue Mountains bushfire funding

I also understand that the local waste facility is not able to accept asbestos waste.

Rappville Public School was where local residents sheltered from the firestorm but is now in the middle of what must surely be a village seriously affected by asbestos.

The Rappville community needs urgent clean up funding and help from the NSW state government to ensure the village is safe now and into the future, and to ensure that residents aren’t crippled by the costs of dealing with the aftermath.

Why was the NSW state government under both Premiers Berejiklian and O’Farrell endorsing supporting the cleanup for ALL affected residents in the Tathra and Blue Mountains bushfires, but not Rappville and surrounds?

The funding for the Tathra fire meant that a single contractor was brought in for the cleanup and meant that insured victims of the fire had much lower costs than they would otherwise have had. 

It’s a tough blow to people like my Dad who have lost literally everything to learn that they are not considered worth the same support as was given after the Tathra and Blue Mountains bushfires.

He’s been told it will cost between $40,000 – $60,000 to clean his block and deal with asbestos contamination – significantly reducing his ability to start again.

 

 

 

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