"Why is everyone squirrelling away these donations when people need help right now."

Bushfire victims left in tents for months

Hundreds of fire-hit families are still living in tents without water and power three months after massive bush blazes ripped through their towns on the state's north coast.

They have seen nothing of the millions donated from around the world and little - if any - government money.

"Why is everyone squirrelling away these donations when people need help right now,"

Bianca Bowman, who created Our Two Hands charity at Casino, said on Sunday.

Stephen, 66, and Helen, 67, Lynch with their dogs Chikos and Indy outside the donated tent they are now living in after fire destroyed their home at Toorooka, west of Kempsey. Picture: Nathan Edwards
Stephen, 66, and Helen, 67, Lynch with their dogs Chikos and Indy outside the donated tent they are now living in after fire destroyed their home at Toorooka, west of Kempsey. Picture: Nathan Edwards

Instead of the money pledged by the state and federal governments and the millions given to major charities, the communities visited by The Daily Telegraph across the region last week were forced to rely on strangers, local tradies, their communities and on-the-ground ­charities like Our Two Hands, BlazeAid, which rebuilds fences, and Lions Clubs.

In communities like Bobin and South Arm where the town halls were saved, tradies have installed donated washing machines and outdoor showers for locals who are still without water.

In Rappville where a wall of flames destroyed 44 homes and the local timber mill on October 8, the clean-up has only started in the past two weeks.

Janet Donnelly with her sons, seven-year-old Logan and eight-year-old Braiden Fullick, outside the donated caravan they are living in, after bushfire destroyed their home at South Arm west of Bowraville. Picture: Nathan Edwards
Janet Donnelly with her sons, seven-year-old Logan and eight-year-old Braiden Fullick, outside the donated caravan they are living in, after bushfire destroyed their home at South Arm west of Bowraville. Picture: Nathan Edwards

NSW Emergency Services Minister David Elliott visited the devastated community last week to buy the local volunteer firefighters a drink at the local pub, which stands amid the wreckage.

"It might have been good for morale but it's a bit useless for anything else," a local said.

Ms Bowman said locals were sick of the media circus arriving in town and they don't want to see any more politicians.

"They want just something done," she said. "A lot of people are feeling angry and abandoned. They are shell-shocked. They started to apply for help but they had to jump through so many hoops."

Logan and Braiden Fullick with the remains of a prized Honda dirt bike that was destroyed when a bushfire burnt down their home. Picture: Nathan Edwards
Logan and Braiden Fullick with the remains of a prized Honda dirt bike that was destroyed when a bushfire burnt down their home. Picture: Nathan Edwards

Insurance companies have been slow to pay out, with one family told they had to use the money to repay what they owed on their mortgage.

In Wyan, one family lost both wooden bridges on the only access to their property and are unable to cover the cost of rebuilding them.

In Willawarrin, the local showground has become a camping spot for volunteers.

Outside town, Helen and Stephen Lynch lost their three dogs, cats, chickens and the uninsured dream home they built after moving from Sydney's west seven years ago.

The fire ripped through without warning while they were at the Kempsey races on November 8. The land around their home was cleared but the cyclone-proof building came under ember attack.

Farmers Steven Dwyer and Mandy Sherlock with the wooden bridge leading to their property at Wyan, near Rappville, which has been severely damaged by bushfire. Picture: Nathan Edwards
Farmers Steven Dwyer and Mandy Sherlock with the wooden bridge leading to their property at Wyan, near Rappville, which has been severely damaged by bushfire. Picture: Nathan Edwards

They are grateful for the donated tents and a campervan that they live out of. They have a donated gas fridge, a portable toilet and a hot shower that works off an old car ­battery. Strangers turned up one day with two 1000-litre pallet tanks.

"We don't know where they were from but we were so happy to see them,' Ms Lynch, 67, said.

They have no shade or shelter from the rain but they do not want to be seen to be whingeing. Their goat, Groot, survived and service veterans with Team Rubicon found Ms Lynch's father's and grandfather's war medals in the ruins of their home.

"We kept saying we were all right, that we didn't need anything," Mr Lynch, 66, said.

Some of the luckier families like Janet Donnelly, partner Aron Fullick and sons Logan, 7, and Braiden, 8, at South Arm, have a donated caravan to live in.

Fire destroyed 27 homes there on November 8.

Teacher Pauline Taylor set up this camp was given the caravan “Buttercup” last week by two strangers from Kew who send a card with their names Gail and Carol. They made up the bed with fresh sheets and filled the van with goodies such as dog food.
Teacher Pauline Taylor set up this camp was given the caravan “Buttercup” last week by two strangers from Kew who send a card with their names Gail and Carol. They made up the bed with fresh sheets and filled the van with goodies such as dog food.

Department of Human Services general manager Hank Jongen said more than $11.5 million in Australian government disaster recovery payments have been paid to people affected by bushfires in the relevant local government areas.

These include Rappville, South Arm, Willawarrin and Bobin.

The Morrison government has also been progressively rolling out assistance programs as part its $2 billion bushfire recovery fund.

Deputy Premier and minister responsible for disaster recovery John Barilaro said the NSW government had committed $1 billion to help rebuild critical infrastructure, including $20 million to rebuild 178 schools in bushfire-ravaged communities such as Bobin.

This is on top of $231 million the state government has also committed for disaster assistance funding.

The damaged bridge. Picture: Nathan Edwards
The damaged bridge. Picture: Nathan Edwards
Inside Pauline Taylor’s tent.
Inside Pauline Taylor’s tent.

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