Black Summer - 2ST

Little Forest community uses technology to reconnect after the fires

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While the Black Summer bushfires caused untold devastation, they have helped unite a small part of the local community in unexpected ways.

When flames were approaching, the residents in Milton's Little Forest Road kept in touch via a whatsapp group to discuss what was happening with the fires, and keep abreast of the latest safety warnings.

After the fires the group has become so much more, being at the heart of keeping the community connected.

Resident Janey Cameron said she was less affected than many others, and had time to use the app to keep people informed about support and assistance that was being made available.

That was the start of bigger things, with an artist living in the street saying she had material available to start a craft group in her home, free of charge.

"That got a few of them together, and was a really good way to bond and to talk about the fires as people were processing the whole fire experience, and they were able to do that in a really comfortable and warm situation," Mrs Cameron said.

A book club has started among the road's residents, along with a yoga and wellbeing group and more.

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A lot of the people living on the road grow their own fruit, vegetables and herbs, or have chickens and, "We have a produce group going and members advertise what they've got going and it's just shared, it's not a payment thing, anyone on the road who wants to can contribute to it and anyone who wants to can take from it," Mrs Cameron said.

And it doesn't end there.

"The whatsapp chat means that we help each other with finding lost dogs, or someone's found some car keys and we find out who the owner is because we can all chat together and work it out, we've solved internet problems for residents along the road, we've been able to welcome new people really easily and warmly because we can all get access to each other quite quickly, we've helped out with sick animals, so it's been really lovely just to have everyone on there."

Mrs Cameron said it had been particularly useful during the COVID lockdown, as people going into town had been able to run errands, buy groceries or even organise services for people unable to leave their homes.

Images: Jules Brooker and Pam Christie

Shoalhaven Mayor crowned National Climate Change Ambassador of the Year

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Shoalhaven Mayor Amanda Findley took out top honours for her work on the climate change frontline at the national Cities Power Partnership Awards.

The Cities Power Partnership Awards recognise the work of climate heroes in local governments across the country who are transforming Australia’s energy landscape.

Mayor Findley was this year’s Climate Ambassador award winner in recognition of her leadership driving climate action and keeping climate on the national agenda in the wake of the Black Summer bushfires.

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Robert Horner, Shoalhaven Water Executive Manager said "Mayor Amanda Findley has been a strong advocate for a number of sustainable energy projects led by Shoalhaven City Council, the local community, and businesses."

Mr Horner said “She has been instrumental in guiding Shoalhaven Council’s sustainable energy and climate change policy initiatives, such as driving a fully electric vehicle and establishing a Revolving Energy Fund.

"Mayor Findley is also an active participant in the Recovery into Resilience bushfire recovery project meetings to fit out 19 community village halls as Local Information Hubs with secondary power sources, solar PV, battery and satellite communications during natural disasters,” he said.

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The Director of the Cities Power Partnership Dr Portia Odell, congratulated Mayor Findley on her award, noting that the Shoalhaven Mayor shone in a competitive field of entrants

 “It is hard to imagine a more committed, consistent, and passionate climate ambassador than Mayor Findley. She was an early champion of climate change, and has continued to make tremendous inroads elevating climate change as a priority on a local, national and global scale,” Dr Odell said.

Images: Cities Power Partnership

 

 

 

 

 

Shoalhaven selected for bushfire retrofit and resilience star rating scheme pilot

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In the wake of the devastating Black Summer bushfires, the 2.2 million Australians who live in the highest bushfire risk areas have a new reason for hope, thanks to a world-first project to increase bushfire resilience and protect lives and properties.

Developed by the Bushfire Building Council of Australia (BBCA), the Bushfire Resilience Star Rating system aims to help households adapt their homes to make them more resilient to bushfire and the Shoalhaven has been selected as the first region to be involved in the pilot program.  

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The Star Rating System will translate decades of scientific research into a clearly communicated action plan for any home, old or new.

It is focused on empowering people to make informed decisions about their bushfire risk, and putting practical, evidence-based tools for improving bushfire safety in their hands.

The project has been made possible thanks to $3 million in funding from the Australian Government, and industry support from BlueScope, IAG and NAB.

The national launch of the Bushfire Resilience Star Rating app is planned for 2023 when the app will be available for free to all Australians.

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BBCA CEO Kate Cotter said: “We estimate that at least 90 per cent of buildings in high bushfire risk areas are not resilient to bushfire, putting lives, homes and livelihoods at unacceptable risk.

“We have brought Australia’s leading bushfire scientists, engineers and industry together to give households a personalised, practical solution to adapt their homes." she said.

Ms Cotter said, “Resilient homes build sustainable communities and economies – making our nation stronger, safer and better prepared for the inevitable next disaster. We are very excited to get to work on real action and incentives for households.”

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The Star Rating system is voluntary and customised.

It will provide individuals with a tailored appraisal of their property’s bushfire risk via a self-assessment app, and a list of practical things they can do to make it more bushfire resilient.

Developed by Australia’s leading bushfire experts, it takes a best practice and holistic approach to bushfire resilience that covers building, landscaping, and ongoing maintenance.

The Star Rating system also has the potential to give insurers, banks and investors a framework for financing and rewarding bushfire resilience adaptations.

Funding is provided through the Australian Government’s National Recovery and Resilience Agency (NRRA), who support national projects targeted at reducing the risk and impact of natural disasters on Australian communities.

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“The Resilience Star Rating system is an important initiative to help Australians understand their disaster risk and what they can do to reduce their vulnerability to natural hazards,” said Michael Crawford, Executive Director of Disaster Risk Management at NRAA said.

He said, “We can’t prevent natural hazards from occurring so reducing our vulnerability to those hazards is central to limiting the impact they can cause. "

"The Star Rating self-assessment app will help put knowledge in the hands of all Australians to guide their risk reduction decisions," he said.

Former Victorian Emergency Management Commissioner and BBCA Expert Advisory Board Member, Craig Lapsley, said: “The Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements has recommended a national approach and urgent action to inform and reward household resilience.”

He said, “After decades of inquiries and recommendations we are finally able to apply Australian science and technology to deliver practical action that will have global impact.

"This is a break- through moment and an exciting world-first project that will help protect lives and properties,” he said.

The Shoalhaven retrofit pilot.

  • Ahead of the national release of the Bushfire Resilience Star Rating self-assessment application, we are seeking interest from households who would like to learn more about upgrading their home for bushfire resilience by completing an assessment of their property’s bushfire risk.
  • Interested residents can register their interest and receive more information about ways to participate in the pilot program. The first pilot location is Shoalhaven NSW, commencing in February 2022.

Expressions of interest can be submitted via this form: https://www.bbca.org.au/resilient-homes/

Images: Bushfire Building Council of Australia

Southern Highland's bushfire Response, Recovery and Resilience Expo

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It is day one of the Southern Highland's online bushfire Response, Recovery and Resilience Expo.

Wingecarribee Shire Council has joined with Wollondilly Shire Council to host the three-day Expo to help residents prepare, recover, and re-build in the face of natural disasters.

Wingecarribee Shire Council’s General Manager Lisa Miscamble said the free Expo had been organised to provide residents of the adjoining Shires with support and advice leading up to the summer months.

“Both the Wingecarribee and Wollondilly Shires suffered significant losses during and following the Black summer
bushfires,” she said.

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Head of Resilience NSW, Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons and Disaster Recovery Expert Anne Leadbeater will both
speak at the event.

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Issues to be covered include disaster preparedness, recovery assistance and rebuilding advice.

Ms Miscamble said, “No one ever wants to see a repeat of this catastrophic event and we want to ensure our residents are as best prepared as possible leading into this year’s bushfire danger period.”

Images: NSW Rural Fire Service 

 

 

The two year anniversary of Shoalhaven's Black Summer bushfire

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It's been a two years since the Currowan wildfire jumped the Princes Highway near Lake Conjola, burning out of control through several Shoalhaven coastal villages.

Three lives were lost during that New Year's Eve in 2019.

A NSW coronial inquiry into the Currowan fire found the fire was initially sparked by lightning strikes.

Shoalhaven RFS Inspector Chris Palmer recounts "Our briefing was it was going to be a very bad day and that proved to be quite correct.

"By ten thirty in the morning, we had already transmitted emergency broadcasts, it was a very bad day for a lot of people sadly," he said.

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Laurie Andrews, 70, died after he had stayed behind to defend his home at Yatte Yattah,

John Butler (Senior), 75, also died at Yatte Yattah after being overrun by fire in his car.

Sussex Inlet man Michael Campbell, 69, had stayed at his property to fight the fire but died in his car sheltering from the inferno.

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The NSW coronial inquiry heard the Black Summer's Currowan bushfire was so intense that it generated four thunderstorms during the two months it burned and in some cases, the only containment option was the Pacific Ocean as it hit the coastline.

 RFS Inspector Chris Palmer said " It was a dire day, in all my career I have never been exposed to that sort of intensity.

"It was not a good day, it was not a pleasant day to relive," he said.

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The Currowan fire burnt through 320,385 hectares in the Shoalhaven over 74 days.

That represents about 68 per cent of the Local Government Area.

311 houses, 26 facilities and 585 outbuildings were destroyed and another 173 houses, 28 facilities and 265 outbuildings were damaged.

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Inspector Palmer thinks lessons have been learned from the disastrous Black Summer bushfires that claimed 26 lives across NSW.

Inspector Palmer said "The service has purchased more aircraft, our equipment continues to improve,  and in terms of our response capability that has also increased.

"As far as residents' I believe residents are now much more aware of the dangers of wildfire." he said.

If you require mental health support, call the 24-hour Mental Health Line on 1800 011 511.

Images: NSW Rural Fire Service