Bushfire royal commission: in some areas, as few as one in four properties have been cleared eight months on

Six months on from the fires that destroyed homes in places like Lake Conjola (pictured), the government-funded clean-up effort has progressed. Picture: Karleen Minney
Six months on from the fires that destroyed homes in places like Lake Conjola (pictured), the government-funded clean-up effort has progressed. Picture: Karleen Minney

Nearly eight in 10 bushfire-affected properties in NSW have now been cleared, the latest figures show.

However in some areas, as few as one in four properties have been cleared as long as eight months on from the fires.

There are fewer than 600 properties still to be cleared across NSW, after a mammoth clean-up effort spanning nearly 50 local government areas.

Around 3600 properties were eligible for the government-funded clean-up, being undertaken by Laing O'Rourke.

As of June 30, around 2900 were cleared. Around 80 extra properties were cleared before Laing O'Rourke was brought on.

In the Bega Valley, where 702 properties were eligible for the clean-up, 74 per cent had been cleared.

In Eurobodalla, where 763 properties were eligible, more than 85 per cent had now been cleared.

In Shoalhaven, more than 92 per cent of properties had now been clared. A total of 437 properties were eligible for the program.

In Queanbeyan-Palerang, nearly 79 per cent of the 104 eligible properties had been cleared.

Progress was slower in other areas.

Around 50 per cent of properties had now been cleared in the Snowy-Monaro region. A total of 71 properties were eligible for the clean-up there.

On the Mid North Coast, 63 per cent of the 111 eligible properties had been cleared, while in Port Macquarie-Hastings 35 per cent of properties had been cleared.

A total of 37 properties were eligible in that local government area.

In the Upper Lachlan area, only one of the seven eligible properties had been cleared - 14 per cent - while in Kyogle, just one of the four registered properties was cleared as of June 30. Kyogle was ravaged by fires in October last year.

The states and Commonwealth are splitting the costs of the massive clean-up effort, which has been somewhat hampered due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Around 5600 properties were registered for the clean-up in NSW alone.

A Resilience NSW spokesman said the discrepancy between the number of registered and eligible properties was because some property owners had registered multiple times by accident.

Others may have chosen to undertake the clean-up themselves or through an insurance company after they registered.

Other properties were ruled out of scope for the clean-up. According to the exclusions criteria rubble outside the property boundary was not eligible for the clean-up, as well as septic tanks, tennis courts and swimming pools.

However Shoalhaven City Council told the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements the political announcements about the clean-up were not ultimately matched by NSW Public Works and Laing O'Rourke.

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"Many people have been left with having to take care of all or part of the clean up themselves as they have been identified as being out of scope causing considerable mental strain and economic loss," the council said in its submission.

The Cobargo Relief Centre previously told the commission it took four months for the clean-up to begin, which had a devastating impact on residents' mental health.

A Resilience NSW spokesman urged bushfire-affect homeowners to continue registering for the clean-up.

"There is no cut-off date for bushfire clean-up. We urge anyone who is in need of assistance to call Service NSW on 13 77 88.," he said.

This story Majority of bushfire-affected properties cleared despite slow progress in some areas first appeared on The Canberra Times.

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