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Deputy Premier and Minister responsible for Disaster Recovery John Barilaro along with Member for Clarence Chris Gulaptis were in Ulmarra on Wednesday last week to thank emergency service volunteers at the Clarence Valley District Fire Control Centre. During his visit, the Deputy Premier addressed the media to make the announcement of the government’s new Bushfire Customer Care program through Service NSW. Image: Lynne Mowbray

One Stop Shop for fire affected communities

Lynne Mowbray|

NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro visited the Clarence Valley on Wednesday last week to thank emergency service workers, meet with the fire affected Nymboida community and to announce the NSW Government’s new Bushfire Customer Care Program.

Mr Barilaro, who is also Minister responsible for Disaster Recovery said the new one-stop shop service administered by Service NSW, would connect those affected by the recent fires with a customer care specialist, who can check their eligibility for assistance and help them access it.

“There are individuals who have fallen through the cracks already and we need to make sure that during this recovery stage that we pick up all those pieces. That is why we’ve put in place through Service NSW, case managers,” Mr Barilaro said.

“We know that for an individual who has been traumatised by loss of home or property, it’s very difficult to navigate and traverse the maze of government.

“Register with Service NSW and you’ll get a case manager that will stick with you from the moment you resister until the end of your journey, to get it right and ensure you get everything that you’re entitled to receive.

“As the Minister for Recovery I’m responsible for the whole State and I believe that where northern NSW is at this point with the assessments done, you’ll see more of the activity of recovery on the ground, sooner (than other areas in the State).

“I want to clean up the debris; I want to clear blocks. I want some level of normality for families so that they can start planning their future. Rebuilding the infrastructure on the ground is important as well as revitalising industry so that our local economy stays strong.

“It’s a massive task and I don’t pretend that this is going to be easy.

“There are 2350 homes lost across the State so far and in excess of 4,500 other properties impacted – this is no easy feat.

“We’re dealing with hazardous materials and asbestos and dealing with the capacity at the local tip to take all this debris.

“We’re picking up the tab when it comes to cleaning up – regardless of whether you’re insured or uninsured, we will clean your block.

“We’ll clean the sites and remove the debris.

“For those who are insured, it means that every cent from their insurance will go to rebuilding and those who are uninsured, it means one less headache you need to worry about,” he said.

Mr Barilaro acknowledged that maybe the assessments in the northern regions have gone too slow and with the fires down south, the focus wasn’t here.

“I’ve already said it’s not good enough, and that’s part of the reason I’ve been appointed (as the Minister for Disaster Recovery) and we’re putting in all these changes,” Mr Barilaro said.

“My focus is going forward and you can mark me and the government over the next weeks and months ahead, about how that progression looks like,” he said.

Mr Barilaro was asked about the flow through affect of donated money to charities, not reaching those affected on the fire grounds.

“The generosity of Australians and generosity across the globe has been significant.

“There’s been 100s of millions going into charities to support those communities that were impacted including supporting the RFS for the future, but we don’t have a clear catalogue of what that looks like.

“As government I have no role in telling a charity and telling Australians that have donated to charities, how to spend that money. But I do have a role in co-ordinating those charities to get a clear picture of what those charities are, where they are or what they’re doing and that’s what we’re doing at a State level with our Federal colleagues and we’re working through that quickly to make sure the money goes to those of need.

“That was the purpose that Australians gave money; for people that have been impacted by fires, we want that money to flow.

“So we have a role, but the responsibilities are on those charities and some of that money is flowing.

“Can we do better there? Yes.

“Let’s co-ordinate it – (that’s) part of my role,” he said.

  • Farmers who have been affected by recent fires can now apply for a Special Disaster Grant of up to $75,000. To apply for the grant or for more information, visit Service NSW or or call 1800 678 593.
Image: Lynne Mowbray

Operations Officer Clarence Valley – Inspector Brian Williams said that it was good to have Deputy Premier John Barilaro visit to thank emergency service volunteers, at the Clarence Valley District Fire Control Centre in Ulmarra last Wednesday.
Mr Williams said that it was great to see a politician put the political side away and show the human emotional side.
“From my meetings with Minister Barilaro I’ve found that he’s that style of person who can touch base with volunteers at the level of volunteerism and really show concern for their welfare and appreciate the amount of work that they’ve done,” Insp Williams said.
“It’s the worst summer I’ve ever seen in 52 years of fighting fires. These fires have been extremely violent. The flames were twice the height of the biggest gum tree you could imagine, in this area.
“The Myall Creek fire was around 2000km around the fire – that’s really huge. It’s extremely hard to fight a fire of that size,” he said.

Deputy Premier and Minister responsible for Disaster Recovery John Barilaro and Member for Clarence Chris Gulaptis thanked local voluntary organisations, for their assistance during the fires in the Clarence Valley. Image: Lynne Mowbray.
The Deputy Premier shakes the hand of Lawrence RFS volunteer Scott Campbell who saved at least one life during the Nymboida fires. Image: Lynne Mowbray.