Community Feedback - Preliminary Community Meeting Jingellic 7 Jan

COMMUNITY FEEDBACK

Welcome by Councillor Heather Wilton, Mayor of Greater Hume Council, who acknowledged that this community meeting is being held on grounds which were under the jurisdiction of Snowy Valleys Council.

Given Jingellic is the community of interest for many Greater Hume residents impacted by the fires and the Showgrounds was a staging point, Council collaborated with Snowy Valleys Council to organise a preliminary meeting for residents within the Jingellic, Talmalmo and neighbouring areas such as Ournie and surrounds, all of which have seen or seeing major bush fire impact in the past seven days.

Steven Pinnuck, General Manager Greater Hume said, in response to a phone call he received Sunday night, Council organised this first informal community meeting today to support affected residents and landholders.  Both councils wanted to get information into the local community because there is no or limited phone and internet communications and no power in the Jingellic and River Road areas and we will still have fires burning. 

Steve introduced representatives attending from Greater Hume and Snowy Valleys Councils, Essential Energy, Murray Local Land Services, Rural Financial Counselling Service, NSW Rural Fire Service, Regional Emergency Management, State Member for Albury Justin Clancy, NSW Farmers, NSW Police, RDA Murray, and welcomed Army Reserve personnel.

Information:

Gary Rodda Local Land Services, explained LLS role immediately and going forward is:

1. Primary role in initial phase of this event is to assist landholders with initial stock needs, emergency fodder and water supplies. LLS is setting up a fodder distribution centre at Holbrook, ring 1800 814 647

2.  LLS vets are going on to farms, assessing livestock and euthanase stock where necessary, and then explaining the burial process and assisting the farmer with this.  LLS staff have already been in the Jingellic area for three days, and he thanked NSW RFS for providing safe access for his staff. 

Any landholder wanting to access fodder supplies or assessment of stock must ring the 1800 number to register.  There are pamplets here for you to take.  Gary added, moving forward LLS will be working with the community about longer term advice, fodder assistance and feed budget planning to assist farmers over the coming months.   

Gary introduced Eve Hall, she is a local Walwa Jingellic vet, other staff arrived Sunday into the Talmalmo, Jingellic, Ournie, Tooma areas. He explained that LLS Murray has an enormous area to cover because Tumbarumba is also in the Murray LLS footprint.

Gary added the current issue for many landholders is that farmers don’t know stock losses as yet, because they are unable to muster stock, some properties have faired well, other have had significant losses.

Gary reiterated that LLS support is for three main areas – emergency fodder, assessing livestock, water, burial of livestock (needs to be safe and EPA approved). LLS will continue to be here in coming days and beyond. Contact us via the 1800 no, If you need to flag one of us down on the road, use the satellite phone (here today). Community has been amazing in the way it has been circulating information. Please look out for your neighbours, if they are destroying their own stock, they might want assistance.

Andrew Robertson NSW Police

Key message for everyone was to be aware of potential unsavory looters in the area. If you see someone who should not be on your property ring us.   Police will be doing regular road patrols in the coming days and weeks.  Police recommend that you treat these persons as suspicious, try to get car registration numbers and report any unusual activity immediately.

At this point, Steve P mentioned that he has received contact from Anglicare saying it has received reports of people illegally posing as their volunteers in the Holbrook, Jingellic and Albury region during the recent bushfire evacuation. Anglicare staff and volunteers have approved Anglicare ID.  Suspicious activity should be reported to police. 

Ian Armstrong Essential Energy

There are approximately 50 poles (on River Rd and Jingellic Rd) which have been burnt/impacted and need replacing.  Essential Energy could only get into north of Jingellic yesterday, repairs have to first be scoped (currently being done by teams).  Jingellic Village is fed from Tumbarumba, but once repairs are made north of the town, Essential Energy should be able to restore supply, hopefully by the end this week.

Essential Energy is out here and we are committed, working together and working as quickly as safety permits.  I will keep in touch with General Managers of Greater Hume and Snowy Valleys Councils and keep you updated. I am updating the ABC and Sounds of the Mountain radio station on a daily basis.

Walwa is fed by the line on top of the hill, I will talking to Tumbarumba and Tumut personnel about getting this sorted with AusNet.  Note that AusNet Services owns and operates the Victorian electricity transmission network.

Graham Christie, Rural Financial Counselling Service

Graham said there are a number of grants/support to offset the costs of the bushfire impacts for farmers. 

Support available -

  • Disaster Recovery Loans up to $130,000 with interest at 2.8% per annum, with no interest for two years, with the loan repaid over 10 years.
  • Disaster Grant of $15,000 – this has been enacted for landholders in Snowy Valleys Council area, but not for Greater Hume Council area at this stage.  According to the NSW Rural Assistance Authorities website, Greater Hume Council is not yet eligible for the $15,000 Disaster Recovery Grant. This may come in time when further assessments of damage and losses are reported.
  • The number to claim both the Disaster Recovery Allowance (13 weeks of income equivalent to Newstart) and the Disaster Recovery Payment ($1000/ adult and $400/child) is 180 22 66.

In relation to your immediate requirements where you had pre-arrangements with banks and loan / interest commitments, you need to contact your bank. If you require assistance in that area I can help to stand beside you during these discussions.  

Our office is located in Swift St Albury, I spend most of my time on farm. 

Steve Pinnuck added people who are eligible for assistance are not always applying. He encouraged everyone to apply for grant assistance and other measures, you can help yourself and in doing so you will help your community because the funding can be spent in local and regional shops and businesses.

Telstra – report given by Steven Pinnuck and Matt Hyde, General Managers Greater Hume and Snowy Valleys Councils

The Jingellic mobile phone base station was burnt, Telstra is hoping that an assessment team will be on site tomorrow, but safe access is necessary.  The base station has been significantly damaged, it will be weeks not days before it can be repaired. In the meantime, Telstra is looking for other options. There is a landline mini exchange near Walwa Golf Course, once power is restored to that, they can get fixed lines working into Jingellic. Telstra aims to trial connectivity via a smart antenna either at the Showground or hotel.   The best reception will be key determinant for the location of the smart antenna, if installed. Cell on wheels (COW) dual axle trailer may be another solution, if available (but the COW won’t have same coverage as a mobile tower). 

Councillor Julia Ham, Snowy Valleys Council

Cr Ham said she was representing the Mayor of Snowy Valleys Council, our Council is there to support you, please tell us where the holes are. Staff are back in the Tumbarumba Office and are working very hard. 

Matt Hyde, General Manager, Snowy Valleys Council

Matt advised we have repaired the connection going to Sounds of the Mountain, so this means the radio signal is coming into Walwa.  We are expecting the fires to further impact into Tumbarumba later in the week, but with some of the connections coming back here, this is delaying the return of services locally.  First Local Emergency Meeting happening tomorrow, present the committee to the regional body for approval, draft recovery plan is being worked up, with sub-groups under that.  For each of our communities we will ask two community representatives to sit on the each sub-group. It is envisaged that recovery period will be two years.  We are working hard to get financial support and encouraging people to spend in the local businesses. We await the Disaster Declaration for Snowy Valleys Council area, this has to be done at a federal level, and is imminent. Please start to make your Centrelink applications.

We want to get information back into the Jingellic community by whatever means possible.

Patrick Westward – NSW Rural Fire Service Incident Controller for the Green Valley fire.

Patrick provided an overview of the Green Valley fire and its impacts.

Firstly explained the origin of the fire, a lightning strike in back of Green Valley area and containment was hampered because of the steep terrain. This fire season, fire in timber has been hard to extinguish.  There is a predicted bad weather day for Saturday, 10 January.

In light of the predicted weather for Saturday 4 January and the fireground preparation being unable to ensure peoples safety, on Friday 3 January, Patrick executed a leave order for all person in the vicinity of Jingellic under the State Emergency and Rescue Emergency Management Act due to it wasn’t going to be safe in Jingellic.  Patrick thanked Police for their assistance to enact that. A lot of preparation work was undertaken to minimize the impact.

Fire will be active for at least another 7 days. Current fire is active at Ournie. Canadian volunteers are assisting.

Mentioned about the counselling services provided by the RFS Chaplin.  Thank you for your help.

Thank all the firefighters and volunteers for their efforts over the past 10 days. 

Patrick provided a weather update. Friday 10th Jan temperature afternoon max 37 degrees RH 15%, nnw winds.  Fire danger indices 40-50. South West change 2200 10th Jan. Cooler but moderate sw winds. Sat 11th ssw winds 27 top temp.  Winds will drop off.

Owen Plowman, Regional Emergency Management Officer

Owen advised COW asset are strategically managed.  Working on getting telecoms back into Jingellic, River Rd, and Lankeys Creek.

In the recovery process, we need to collate any impact assessments.  Be patient with people who come to your property undertaking assessment about damage, structure, stock, losses.  Aviation assessment will also be undertaken for impact assessments.  Pat Westward advised that RFS staff are currently physically mapping the area. 

Justin Clancy, State Member for Albury   

Justin advised Recovery Coordinator, Dick Adams has been appointed for this area.  Matt Hyde, General Manager, Snowy Valleys Council is setting up a Recovery Committee. 

As your State Member, my role is any issue that we can’t be worked out locally, then it’s my role to escalate these issues to the Government to seek a solution.  My role is to identify the gaps and alleviate those challenges at the State level.

I want to acknowledge the Jingellic and surrounding community.  Make sure no one drops through the gaps.  Look after each other.  Community has varying degrees of trauma. 

I want to acknowledge the agencies working for you, Essential Energy was on the fire ground within 24 hours, both councils who have pulled out all stops, LLS, Police, and other agencies. RFS.  I want to thank the decision makers over the last few days, having to make tough decisions. 

Dan Brear, NSW Farmers

I can assist with bush telegraph getting the information out there, through our members’ database, because telecommunications are down. 

Phil Clements, Softwoods Working Group

Softwood industry has taken a bit hit, with a number of plantations impacted.  Our groups will be focused on strategies to assist rebuilding in the area.

Mary Hoodless, Jingellic resident and Chair of Regional Development Australia (Murray)

Mary offered thanks to the emergency services. Day 9 now.  The emergency welfare centre is here at Jingellic because funding to establish a facility for exactly this purpose was achieved three years ago.   There are donated groceries and beer, you can come here to relax. Thank you to the volunteers coming in from Holbrook to assist with the running of the facility.

Steve Pinnuck, General Manager, Greater Hume Council

River Road open for local traffic only. Greater Hume is assessing trees along the road reserve to make it safe, and touch up the road, all of which will form part of our National Disaster claim.  But we need residents to be patient, because we can’t fix it until we get the approved funding, so it will be some time before full repairs can be undertaken on River Road.

Pat Westward, RFS final comment

Please be careful travelling on local roads, we still have an active fire ground with fire on three flanks.  At present travel, particularly in the afternoon, is a bit more dangerous because of potential movement of the fire from the heat of the day and tanker and heavy equipment being moved around.