Bushfires Clean-Up Too Slow, Say Councils

June 23, 2020 Updated: June 23, 2020

The clean-up of homes destroyed in Australia’s unprecedented bushfires has been too slow, the royal commission into the disaster has been told.

A number of councils have raised concerns over delays in the process, with NSW’s Clarence Valley Council saying the clean-up needs to start within weeks rather than months.

“The burnt house clean-up has been too slow,” the council said in its royal commission submission.

“Every burnt-down house owner will tell you that the biggest mental issue they have to endure is having to see the burnt-out remains of their house.”

NSW’s Lithgow City Council also argued the joint state/Commonwealth clean-up of private properties has been slower than anticipated.

Snowy Valleys Council, also in NSW, said people affected by the bushfires were feeling isolated.

“Many members of the community have been left feeling isolated during the time between accessing and registering for recovery services and waiting for clean-up and rebuilding to occur,” its submission said.

“These impacts are exacerbated by the current isolation requirements placed on all members in the community due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Clarence Valley Council planning director Des Schroder said while the community was grateful government was paying for the clean-up, the impact of delays on people’s mental health could not be underestimated.

“Recovery is a marathon and not a sprint,” Schroder said in a submission.

“The danger is as the COVID-19 emergency unfolds, the bushfire impacts will be forgotten.

“The fire-impacted communities have had no chance to recover from the scars of the fires and the impact on their mental health and financial health, and are now again facing a new emergency.”

The Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements hearing focusing on local governments wraps up on June 24.

Megan Neil