Recovery from bushfire events

Our bushfire recovery page was created to support our community as they recover from the fires that hit the MidCoast area in November 2019.

There is a range of assistance available for local households, businesses, industries and landholders.

Service NSW Bushfire Customer Care Service

For people impacted by bushfire, the NSW Bushfire Customer Care Service will help you navigate the support and financial assistance that's available across all levels of government.

Service NSW is providing one-on-one support for people and businesses.

They can help with:

  • Accommodation advice
  • Relevant charitable services
  • Mental health and wellbeing services
  • Support for businesses
  • Clean-up services
  • Financial assistance
  • Grants and rebates
  • Insurance and legal support
  • Replacing lost ID
  • Volunteer RFS and SES payments.

Call 13 77 88 or visit the Service NSW website to register for a call back.


Bushfire Recovery enewsletters

If you wish to receive the newsletter via email, please register your details on the form below.

Click here to view form.



Council rate and fee relief for bushfire impacted residents

Rate relief

The NSW Government has announced it will fund a full year of council rate relief for owners of homes, farms and businesses lost in the bushfire crisis.

In February 2020, the NSW Government announced six months of Council rates relief for anyone who has lost their home or small business in the recent bushfires, which covered the third and fourth quarters of this financial year. Now that has been extended for the next two quarters.

This funding is paid directly to the local council, meaning ratepayers don’t have to pay anything,

MidCoast Council has distributed the 2020/2021 Rates notices to all landowners, however residents who lost their primary residence during the 2019 Bushfires and are eligible for the rates relief would have noticed that it hasn’t been deducted from their notice. Council, in consultation with Service NSW are finalising the eligibility list, once completed and funding received from Service NSW, the relevant accounts will be credited.

Affected residents who have lost their homes and small businesses should contact a Service NSW centre in the first instance. Anyone who has already paid their rates will receive a refund.

Council assistance

Fee relief for rebuilding destroyed properties:

We have waived all fees and charges relating to the redevelopment of properties identified by the RFS Building Impact Assessment Team as being damaged or destroyed by the bushfires.

This includes all development application fees, construction certificates, complying development certificates and fees for septic systems.

If your property has been destroyed, we will:

  • Disconnect you from the water and sewer network (if you wish) for no charge – sewer connections will be made safe and capped for future reconnection.
  • If your water service is damaged beyond repair we will install a new tap at the property boundary. Water from this tap will be free until your start to rebuild, or you need to put a tap somewhere within your property for stock water or other normal uses.
  • Reconnect your water and sewer services at no cost when you need them.
  • Not charge you for any water or sewer charges for the billing period the fire occurred in.
  • Not charge you any annual fees for onsite wastewater management systems if it has been destroyed and properly decommissioned by a suitably qualified person (if you chose to stay on your property and the system is operational, fees and charges will continue to apply).
  • Only charge you the vacant waste management charge if you no longer reside on the property and your garbage bins are not in use.
  • Waive interest on the November 2019 rates installment if you weren’t able to make payment by the due date (we can’t waive interest on rates and charges outstanding before the fires).
  • Suspend any recovery action on outstanding rates and charges for 18 months and make sure you are aware you can apply for consideration under our Hardship Policy to assist during recovery and any rebuilding process.
  • Waive the State Government Waste Levy on a range of fees at our waste management centres (See Table B for more information(PDF, 742KB)). 

If your property has been classified as damaged, we will:

  • Contact you to see if you wish to disconnect your water and sewer services – if you do the same conditions that apply to destroyed homes will apply
  • Not charge you any annual fees for onsite wastewater management systems if it has been destroyed and properly decommissioned by a suitably qualified person (if you chose to stay on your property and the system is operational, fees and charges will continue to apply)
  • Waive interest on the November 2019 rates installment if you weren’t able to make payment by the due date (we can’t waive interest on rates and charges outstanding before the fires)
  • Suspend any recovery action on outstanding rates and charges for 18 months and make sure you are aware you can apply for consideration under our Hardship Policy(PDF, 378KB) to assist during recovery and any rebuilding process
  • Waive some development application fees and section 68 application fees for single dwelling approvals. (See Table A for more information(PDF, 448KB)). 
  • Waive the State Government Waste Levy on a range of fees at our waste management centres. (See Table B for more information(PDF, 742KB)). 

If your water services were damaged resulting in excessive water usage or you used water to defend your property during the fires

  • You may be eligible for a reduction in water charges under our Concealed Leaks Policy(PDF, 162KB) – application and approval processes apply. Damage to non-metallic services is not eligible.


NSW Bushfire Inquiry

The NSW Government commissioned an independent expert inquiry into the 2019-20 bushfire season to provide input to NSW ahead of the next bushfire season.

The Inquiry welcomed submissions from bushfire-affected residents, emergency and support personnel, organisations and the general public.

 Click here for more information and to view the Commission's final report.



Clean up assistance, advice and process

At the end of July 2020, direct responsibility of site clean-ups was handed back to Public Works Advisory who will lead efforts on the next stage of the NSW and Federal Government funded bushfire clean-up program.

As this hand-over occurs, the NSW Government and Laing O’Rourke remain acutely aware that there are still eligible properties registered to be cleared. Please be assured, we are absolutely focussed on ensuring no one is left behind and that properties are cleared as quickly and as safely as possible.  

Registrations are still open; the bushfire clean-up program does not currently have an end-date to opt-in.

You can register online here, or contact Service NSW on 13 77 88.

Undertaking your own clean-up

Some clean-ups have already been undertaken in the last few months by Public Works and insurance companies.

For those who are doing their own clean-up, it is important to note that while a development application is not required, Council does need to inspect and issue a clean-up notice and/or demolition order to allow the clean-up works to lawfully proceed (all related administration fees associated with the notices will be waived). Requests or enquiries can be made via email to council@midcoast.nsw.gov.au

Decommissioning services

It is the responsibility of the property owner to arrange for any services to be decommissioned as appropriate.

This may include: 

  • Decommissioning of septic systems
  • Capping of sewerage and water connections
  • Rubbish collection
  • Electricity

You will need to let us know if any MidCoast Council services are no longer needed and to find out if these charges can be excluded from future rates charges. Contact us via email at council@midcoast.nsw.gov.au or call us on (02) 7955 7777 

Asbestos

Asbestos dust and fibres have the potential to present a health risk during and after a fire if not properly managed. 

Asbestos clean-up and removal must be done by an appropriately licenced (Class A) asbestos removalist. Asbestos debris may have been sprayed with PVA, or a similar sealant by Public Works to suppress the release of fibre until the material is safely removed.

For information about the safe handling and removal of asbestos visit www.safework.nsw.gov.au

For information about transport and disposal of hazardous materials visit www.epa.nsw.gov.au.



Rebuilding, repairing and temporary accommodation

For general information on rebuilding or repairing your damaged home, go to the NSW Government’s Department of Planning, Industry and Environment website.

View and download the planning assistance factsheet here(PDF, 350KB).

Fee relief for rebuilding destroyed properties:

We recognise you have been through a trying time and we want to make it as easy as possible for you to get back into your own home as soon as possible.

We have waived all fees and charges relating to the redevelopment of properties identified by the RFS Building Impact Assessment Team as being damaged or destroyed by the bushfires.

This includes all development application fees, construction certificates, complying development certificates, fees for septic systems and all fees and charges associated with the replacement of houses, sheds, farm buildings and septics– so Council approval can be gained free of charge to replace lost structures.

All you need to do is lodge a Development Application form (D.A.) and provide a set of plans. To make that easier, we have a free advisory service through our fast-track dedicated bushfire recovery approvals system. Phone Chad Vowles, 6591 7296 or email chad.vowles@midcoast.nsw.gov.au and book in a free pre-lodgment meeting (available from 8.30am - 10.30am weekdays). The meeting is focussed on ensuring you have a fast turn-around time on your development application so you can get on with the physical rebuild of your new home or structure.

Temporary housing

The NSW Government is working to make sure people in bushfire-impacted areas are safe and cared for.

There is still emergency accommodation available for people affected by bushfires.

Any person affected by the bushfires can be put in temporary accommodation immediately by calling Service NSW on 13 77 88.

Temporary Accommodation Policy

Our Temporary Accommodation Policy(PDF, 128KB) provides guidelines on how you can continue to live on your property while you are rebuilding or repairing your fire damaged home.

You will need to submit an application for temporary accommodation and allows for a caravan, or registered or unregistered moveable dwelling to be used to occupy the property once a development consent, construction certificate or complying development certificate has been approved for the property.

Accessing property plans and approvals

For copies of plans and approvals for your property, please submit:

Bushfire Recovery - Informal request for access to information application

Bushfire recovery applications will be given priority and processed as soon as possible.



Mental health support

It’s completely normal to experience a range of emotions following bushfires. This can happen not just immediately after the fire, but also much later.

You or your loved ones might also be feeling overwhelmed right now by the constantly changing alerts and media coverage regarding COVID-19.

You might want to check in on your friends and neighbours with a friendly phone call, and if you or someone you know needs help, reach out.

 The following are free services available 24 hours a day, seven days a week:

  • Mental Health Line – 1800 011 511
  • Lifeline Bushfire Recovery Line - 13 43 57
  • Mensline – 1300 789 978
  • Kids Helpline – 1800 55 1800
  • Beyondblue – 1300 22 4636

If you or someone you know is in immediate danger call 000

Manning Mental Health Services – bushfire recovery

Not feeling like yourself after the bushfires? It can help to talk ... It’s OK to not be OK. It’s normal to have strong emotional and/or physical reactions after a significant event. You may be feeling this way if you were impacted in any way by the 2019-20 bushfires. Everyone may react to these feelings in a different way. If you’re not feeling like yourself after the bushfires (and now COVID-19), it can help to talk. Lots of people in similar circumstances are finding it helpful. You might too.

Bushfire Recovery Mental Health Clinicians are available in our local area to assist people within bushfire affected communities to have access to emotional support and the right level of mental health care for their individual needs. This is a confidential and free service.

Jinu Abraham - ph: 0407 609 690 or email Jinu.Abraham2@health.nsw.gov.au

Tony Colechin - ph: 0407 801 331 or email Anthony.Colechin@health.nsw.gov.au

Farmgate Support Program

The farmgate support program provides free mental health and emotional support to farmers, farming families, local businesses and service providers affected by the drought, bushfires & COVID-19. It is designed to meet the needs of individuals, couples and families; whether they require short term conversations and information or ongoing formal counselling options. The program can also assist community members to access other mental health services they may require. 

Service Delivery

• The Farmgate Support Program is a free mobile service throughout the Hunter New England Local Health District

• Farmgate counsellors and peer workers are able to visit and provide service on farms, in homes and businesses

• Visits can also be arranged at any other place where confidentiality can be guaranteed

How to access the Farmgate Support Program

• You can call or email

• Referral by families, friends and service providers. To make a referral on behalf of someone else, you need their consent before contacting the Farmgate Support team.

Phone: 0477 322 851

Email: FarmgateSupport@health.nsw.gov.au

Rural Adversity Mental Health Program

The Rural Adversity Mental Health Program links people to local mental health services and resources, educates workplaces and communities about mental health and wellbeing and responds in times of natural disasters and severe adversity. Visit www.ramhp.com.au/about-us/ for more information.

Local contact: Kylie Atkinson: 0437 268 325

 

Lifeline Face to Face Counselling

No Charge. No referral required. Counselling services can help people struggling with personal issues. Lifeline with the support of PHN, are proud to be able to provide a counselling service at no cost to those who have been impacted by recent bushfires.

You do not require a referral to initiate contact with our counselling service.

Stephen Prohm 0427 657 413, Community Engagement Coordinator

coordinator@lifelinemidcoast.org.au

Other support 

The following free service is available to people impacted by fires and drought. No GP referral is needed.

  • Northern NSW - Connect to Wellbeing 1300 160 339  

These fact sheets may also help:

Let's Talk - where to find help for mental health concerns(PDF, 472KB)

Free mental health support for people affected by bushfires(PDF, 1MB)

Take Care of Yourself(PDF, 779KB)

Coping with community crisis or natural disaster(PDF, 215KB)

Coping with loss and change in a community after natural disaster(PDF, 323KB)

Getting through floods, drought and extreme climate events(PDF, 2MB)

Helping children cope after a natural disaster(PDF, 238KB)



Support for businesses

It’s been a difficult few months for our community and businesses.

If your business has been impacted by the NSW bushfires, is feeling the impact of the measures to control COVID-19 (or is impacted by both), contact the Service NSW Business Concierge.

They’ll identify the specific support and services available to your business, including relevant grants.

To be connected to the Service NSW Business Concierge call 13 77 88 or request a call back via their website

View and download the Service NSW 'Help re-establishing your business factsheet(PDF, 48KB) .

The NSW small business bushfire information webinar

In this webinar you will hear from a range of government agencies on support available to bushfire affected small business, including: Small Business Commission, Service NSW, Business Connect and Training Services NSW.

View the recorded webinar on YouTube here.

$10,000 Small Business Support Grant

Businesses in the MidCoast Council area are eligible to apply for a $10,000 Small Business Support Grant.

This grant will be available to small businesses who have experienced a significant decline in revenue.

The application process for this grant has been simplified so eligible small businesses can access funds as quickly as possible.

The grant may be used for, but is not limited to:

  • meeting standard business costs, including utilities, salaries and rent
  • seeking financial advice to support the recovery of the business
  • adjusting the business to be viable in the changed local context following the bushfires 
  • developing the business and extending business reach through marketing and communications activities, or 
  • improvements to make the business more resilient to future disasters.

Businesses can apply for the grant here.

Document replacement

If your business has been affected by fire or important business documents have been lost or destroyed, you may need to use some of the information and forms below to help get the business running again.

Australian Government – National Bushfire Recovery Agency

The Australian Government has put measures in place for small businesses who have suffered direct fire damage, or have been indirectly economically impacted following the bushfires.

If you are an affected small business, you may be eligible for a range of assistance, including grant funding, concessional loans and tax relief and financial counselling services targeted to help small and family business owner’s deal with financial challenges they face.

Fire impact survey

  • The NSW Small Business Commissioner (on behalf of the Fire Recovery Committees) is conducting a fire impact Survey. This survey is the primary data sources that the NSW government is using to assess the impacts of the fires on businesses so if relevant, please complete.

Natural Disaster Relief Loans 

The Natural Disaster Relief Scheme assists Small Business Operators directly affected by a declared natural disaster. Small businesses who have been directly affected by a declared natural disaster including floods, fires or storm damage, may be eligible for low interest loans of up to $130,000. 

Visit https://www.raa.nsw.gov.au/disaster-assistance/disaster-recovery-loans/small-business   for more information and loan guidelines

Small Business Recovery Toolkit 

The NSW Small Business Commission has developed a range of resources to help small business owners recover from disasters. Visit https://www.smallbusiness.nsw.gov.au/disaster-recovery  to access these resources.

Tax Assistance 

For businesses affected by natural disasters, Revenue NSW can help with payroll tax. Call 1300 139 815 to find out more. 

The Australian Tax Office is offering support to businesses affected by the bushfires and can waive interest charged, set up payment plans with interest free periods and give you more time to pay. Visit the ATO website or call 1800 806 218 to discuss your situation. 

Fair Trading

Fair trading can provide information on credit matters to assist people in negotiating repayments with their lenders and fund regional based financial counselling and legal services for people in financial hardship. Provides assistance to businesses regarding fair and ethical practices. Call 13 32 20 or visit www.fairtrading.nsw.gov.au

Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC)

ASIC is offering assistance to small businesses that are facing disruption or severe hardship due to the bushfires, including reviewing fees or considering payment options. More information available at https://asic.gov.au/for-business/payments-fees-and-invoices/bushfire-relief/

Small Business Grants

Grants of up to $15,000 are available if your business has been directly affected by bushfire. Eligibility criteria apply. Applications can be made to the Rural Assistance Authority (RAA).

Call the Rural Assistance Authority on 1800 678 593 or visit www.raa.nsw.gov.au

Business Connect

A free mobile advisory service is available to small businesses. A local advisor can meet you at a convenient place and discuss your business needs. Advice is offered about managing cash flow, planning the next steps, accessing financial support schemes and connecting to additional support.

HelpaSmallBiz.com

Does your small business need help to keep trading or get back up trading again?

Help a Small Biz matches Australian small businesses directly or indirectly impacted by the bushfires with non-affected businesses to provide the help they need.

We have skilled professionals offering to donate their time and help in the areas of:

  • Marketing, Communications & Social Media
  • Graphic Design, Website & Copyrighting
  • Administrative Support & Grant Writing
  • IT & Technical Support
  • Financial Management & Budgeting Advice
  • Business Coaching & Mentoring
  • Business Strategy & Continuity Plans
  • Event Management

To sign up: register at 'I Need Help' on www.helpasmallbiz.com or email helpasmallbiz@corporate2community.com or call Mel on 0431 181 721

Hunter New England and Central Coast Primary Health Network Grants

The Primary Health Network are providing grants of up to $10,000 for activities that promote wellbeing in our community. Find out more here(PDF, 6MB) .

Dispute Resolution Service

A confidential and free dispute resolution service has been set up to help small businesses needing assistance to work through problems with other businesses or government.

General information for Regional NSW

Information, advice and assistance is available for people managing a business, including business tools to analyse profitability and prepare for export.



Insurance claims and support 

The NSW Government and the Commonwealth are covering the full cost of cleaning up eligible NSW properties that have been destroyed by bushfires since 1 July 2019.

Both insured and uninsured properties used for residential, small business or primary production purposes are eligible for the clean-up program.

They have appointed contractor Laing O’Rourke to undertake the clean-up. For more information or to register visit the Service NSW website.

For the latest information on Laing O'Rourke's schedule visit their NSW Bushfire clean-up information hub or call 1800 007 539

Insurance Council of Australia

Your insurer or assessor should always be the primary contact regarding your claim. However the Insurance Council can provide general insurance information about managing your claim or how to lodge a complaint.

Call 1800 734 621 or visit www.disasters.org.au

Most general insurers subscribe to the Insurance Code of Practice. The code sets out how insurers provide services to their customers in an open, fair and honest way. View the code at www.codeofpractice.com.au

For insured homes that have been damaged or destroyed, insurance companies will arrange clean-up and removal of bushfire debris.

The NSW Government will provide financial assistance to ensure any extraordinary clean-up costs do not result in a reduction in the insured amount for rebuilding. This additional assistance will be made available through insurers. 

For uninsured homes that have been damaged or destroyed, Public Works Advisory can arrange for the clean-up and removal of bushfire debris from residences and immediately adjacent outbuildings, including the removal of asbestos and concrete slabs. Contact Public Works Advisory on 1800 88 55 39.

Financial Counselling Australia

If you are experiencing financial difficulty, you can speak to a free, independent financial counsellor.

Call 1800 007 007

Legal Aid NSW

Legal Aid NSW is operating a Disaster Response Legal Service which provides legal help to people in NSW affected by the bushfires.
Help is available for:

Insurance
Credit hardship
Housing
Employment
Replacement of documents (e.g. Certificate of Title)

Call Legal Aid on 1800 801 529.



Managing native vegetation

The fact sheet below provides guidance for landholders on native vegetation management in rural areas once a bushfire emergency has passed.



Support for individuals

Australian Government – National Bushfire Recovery Agency

The Australian Government has put measures in place so that families and individuals affected by bushfires can access resources quickly to ease the stress during the recovery phase.

For information https://www.bushfirerecovery.gov.au/recovery-assistance/families-individuals

Australian Red Cross

Immediate assistance is available for bushfire-affected people in financial hardship. Four different grants are available:

  • Emergency grant $20,000 for people who have lost their homes.
  • Injury grant $7,500 for people who were hospitalised due to the fires.
  • Primary residence repair grant $10,000 for home owners whose homes have been structurally damaged. From 12 March 2020, eligibility has been extended to include destruction or damage to critical private water, septic and/or power infrastructure.
  • Re-establishment grant $40,000 for owner-occupiers to assist with early stages of rebuilding. $10,000 for people who were renting a home or whose primary place of residence was a caravan or mobile home.

Applications for the above grants are open till September 30 2020. After this date a new grant will be available and the current grants will no longer be available. 

Click here for more information or to start an application.

Financial support and assistance for Manning Valley residents

Direct financial support and assistance to people living in the Manning Valley who are having difficulty paying their bills or accessing items for their immediate needs due to a financial crisis, COVID or bushfires impacting on their lives.

No referral required.

Please call Manning Valley Neighbourhood Services on 6553 5121 for an assessment. Assessments can be face to face or by telephone, Monday to Thursday 9am – 3pm.

Phone and mobile disaster relief

  • Telstra customers impacted by bushfires are eligible for relief packages which can include one-off phone credit and free diversion from an affected phone service to another service, regardless of carrier. Volunteer firefighters can also get their mobile phone bills waived for December 2019 and January 2020. Call 132 203 to register.
  • Optus customers impacted by bushfires are eligible for financial assistance which can include free prepaid credit, bill waivers in extreme cases, and free diversion from an affected phone service to another service, regardless of carrier. Volunteer firefighters can also get their mobile phone bills waived for December 2019 and January 2020. Call 1300 301 671 to register.
  • Vodafone customers who are volunteer firefighters can get their mobile phone bills waived for December 2019 and January 2020. Call 1300 650 410 to register.

Replacing personal documents

Service NSW can help replace many of your personal documents free of charge if they were damaged or destroyed.

This includes birth certificates, marriage certificates, licences and number plates.

Visit your nearest Service NSW centre or call 13 77 88.

Legal assistance

Legal Aid NSW can provide free legal advice and minor assistance to people affected by disasters on a range of issues, including insurance, tenancy, credit and debt problems. Call 1800 801 529 or visit legalaid.nsw.gov.au

The Financial Rights Legal Centre have developed a bushfire insurance guide available here, and can also provide advice through the Insurance Law Service. Call 1300 663 464 for assistance.

Housing assistance

In NSW, social housing providers can provide support and assistance to people who are affected as a direct result of natural disasters such as fires, and can assist affected people with access to products such as:

  • Temporary accommodation – time limited accommodation for clients who are experiencing immediate homelessness
  • Emergency temporary accommodation – short-term temporary housing for up to 3 months for clients in urgent need of housing because of natural disaster (who would not normally be eligible for social housing)
  • Rentstart bond loan – an interest-free loan to assist eligible clients pay a rental bond for a tenancy
  • Housing assistance – a range of housing assistance products and services (including the above) that a person may be eligible for.

Department of Communities and Justice Housing can offer temporary accommodation, as well as interest-free bond loans and advance rent to eligible fire-impacted residents.

Call the Housing Contact Centre on 1800 422 322 (available 24/7) for more information.

Education support for young people

Education and Workplace Pathways Grant

Young people looking to continue their education or get support in look for work can get financial assistance with:

  • Paying education fees
  • Accessing technology to support work or education needs
  • Purchasing work related attire such as safety gear.

To qualify for assistance, you need to:

  • be between 15 and 25 years old,
  • have identification (or government letter) to demonstrate your residence was in a bushfire impacted area, and proof of residency (e.g. utility bill)
  • provide evidence of education enrolment
  • provide evidence of your workplace situation (this can be negotiated)

To apply or get more information, call the Salvation Army bushfire disaster team on 1300 662 217 or email sal.disasters@salvationarmy.org.au

Financial advice 

Financial Counselling Australia  Free, independent and confidential support to people in financial difficulty. Call 1800 007 007 or visit www.financialcounsellingaustralia.org.au

Financial Rights Legal Centre Advice and advocacy for consumers in financial distress. Call 1300 663 464 or visit www.financialrights.org.au



Support for landholders

Primary Producer Grants

Grants of up to $75,000 are being made available by the Rural Assistance Authority to assist eligible farmers, fishers and foresters deal with their immediate needs and can be used for everything from fodder and water, sheds, fencing and agricultural equipment, where those needs are not covered by their existing insurance policies.

Call the Rural Assistance Authority on 1800 678 593 or find out more at https://www.raa.nsw.gov.au

Rural Aid Disaster Assistance 

Rural Aid Disaster Assistance is available - Get the information flyer here(PDF, 3MB)

It's important to look after yourself and your family, this fact sheet may be helpful:

Getting through floods, drought and extreme climate events(PDF, 2MB)

Free title searches and plan images

NSW Land Registry Services (NSW LRS) is helping landholders affected by the recent NSW bushfires by providing title searches and plan images of their property free of charge.

Property searches and plans can assist landholders with insurance claims and development applications to council, as well as provide peace of mind regarding land ownership following natural disasters.

If you have been affected by the recent bushfires and would benefit from access to land and property information from the land titles register, please call the NSW LRS Contact Centre on 1300 396 076 (regional callers) or (02) 8776 3575 and we can discuss how best to assist you.

NSW LRS operates the land titles register on behalf of the NSW Government, as well as the General Register of Deeds and the Water Access Licence Register. These registers hold essential information about properties across the state, including about ownership, restrictions on use, title boundaries, plans, and water access and use. Information held on these registers is available for landowners to view through land and property information searches.

Disaster relief low interest loans

Disaster relief low interest loans of up to $130,000 are available to eligible primary producers and small businesses, and transport subsidies of up to 50% of the cost to transport livestock or fodder, to eligible primary producers.

Call the Rural Assistance Authority on 1800 678 593.

Fire-damaged fences

NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) offers assistance under certain conditions to repair or replace fences bordering national parks in accordance with the NPWS boundary fencing policy.

This is of particular relevance to landholders who immediately border national parks and nature reserves affected by the recent fires. NPWS is offering to purchase and supply an agreed quantity of fencing materials to reconstruct boundary fences.

This offer applies to the replacement or repair of pre-existing boundary fences only.

  • Call the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment on 1300 361 967.

Funding to help farmers rebuild boundary fencing bordering public lands

Bushfire-affected landholders will have access to their share of up to $209 million to help cover the cost of rebuilding boundary fences.

Local Land Services will provide up to $5,000 per kilometre for the purchase of materials to rebuild existing fences adjoining public lands damaged by the summer fires.

The funding is to be paid through a one-off grant, which can also be issued retrospectively to help cover the costs already incurred by landholders.

For more information about the program visit www.lls.nsw.gov.au.

Eligible landholders can apply for the program online at the LLS website, or by expressing their interest for a callback service via one of the 11 regional LLS Facebook pages, or by calling 1300 778 080.

Rural Resilience Program

The NSW DPI Rural Resilience Program works with farming communities to link farmers into existing services and initiatives. The MidCoast contact Peter Brown, Taree 0437 671 459

Rural Financial Counselling Service

This service provides free and impartial rural financial counselling to eligible primary producers, fishers and small rural businesses. They help identify options, negotiate with lenders, develop an action plan, help support access to the Farm Household Allowance and provide information on assistance schemes.

Michael Ramastadius taree@rfcsnr.org.au 6551 5879 or 0448 035 143

Primary Producers Assistance

For more information the range of assistance available to primary producers from the NSW Department of Primary Industries, including drought relief, go to https://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/about-us/rural-support/RRP/primary-producers

NSW Farmers Bushfire Relief Grant

NSW Farmers is inviting bushfire affected primary producers to apply for a $3000 grant from the NSW Farmers Bushfire Relief Grant.

Whether you had country, infrastructure, or livestock damaged or destroyed, or your farm business was significantly impacted, this grant is designed to assist with your bushfire recovery.

Primary producers can apply online at www.nswfarmers.org.au or contact NSW Farmers on (02) 9478 1009. 



Water assistance

Domestic water assistance

If your potable water has been used by a fire fighting agency to fight the fire, you may be eligible to have it replaced. This assistance is for residential properties in rural areas.

  • Call the Disaster Welfare Assistance Line on 1800 018 444.


Electricity connections

Bushfire-affected areas

Due to the unprecedented damage to the electricity network caused by NSW bushfires during 2019/2020, for the next two years, Essential Energy is waiving the normal connection fee and offering customers whose property was affected by fire, a rebate towards the cost of restoring service mains.

If power supply connection to your home or business premises has been damaged or destroyed by bushfire, you should contact an appropriately qualified electrical contractor – an Accredited Service Provider (ASP) – to help you through the reconnection process. A list of ASPs is available on the Energy NSW website.

Step-by-step connection process

• The customer engages the services of an appropriately qualified Level 2 ASP.

• The customer or ASP submits an Application for Low Voltage Connection, stating that the application is for a ‘Rural New Connection’ (even if the connection is for an urban area), noting in the comments that this is for a bushfire-affected customer.

• Essential Energy will assess the application and connection prior to the bushfire event and determine an appropriate costing on a ‘like for like’ replacement basis – the offer and a reimbursement form will be sent to the customer.

• The customer will sign the offer and send back to Essential Energy.

• The ASP will carry out the work to replace the connection to Essential Energy’s network.

• The customer will pay the ASPs invoice for the works.

• The customer then has the ability to submit the paid invoice and reimbursement form to Essential Energy for reimbursement.

If you or your ASP need technical information about connecting to the electricity network, contact Essential Energy on 13 23 91.

Further information



Animal welfare

The NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) and Local Land Services officers are assisting landholders in northern NSW to manage animal welfare-related issues, which include: 

  • Emergency fodder and stock water
  • Animal assessment and veterinary assistance 
  • Stock euthanasia and burial 
  • Livestock feeding and management advice 
  • Care of animals in evacuation centres 

 Call the Agricultural Services Hotline on 1800 814 647 Download the factsheet(PDF, 1022KB), or visit www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/rrp

RSPCA Bushfire Assistance

The Bushfire Assistance form below can be used by anyone affected by the fires that need assistance with their animals. Simply complete the form and email it to online@rspcansw.org.au. Alternatively, the form can be completed online here.



Wildlife recovery

The ongoing bushfire and drought crisis is having a crippling toll on our community and our wildlife and the natural environment are amongst the worst impacted. We know people want to help these vulnerable members of our communities so here is some advice, contact details and other ways you can assist:

  • Please put containers of clean, fresh water in the landscape in the shade with sticks, mesh or rocks to prevent small animals drowning
  • Be mindful of domestic pets in wildlife areas - please keep cats indoors (especially at night) and keep dogs under your control
  • Watch for animals crossing roads, especially in or near burnt areas
  • Put out fruit for native birds, reptiles, bats and other mammals with a high water content (eg watermelon, apples, pears, oranges)
  • Install nesting boxes and retain logs and rocks for animal shelter
  • Avoid non-essential clearing of burnt and unburnt native vegetation
  • Use the FAWNAfood4wildlife initiative - public collection points with free macropodpellets and wild bird seed are set up at Taree, Wingham, Bobin, Nabiac, Rainbow Flat, Hallidays Point, Old Bar and Manning Point. Instructions are at the collection points.

Useful contacts

Important contact details for the appropriate wildlife agencies, should you come across sick or injured wildlife:

Koalas - Please report all koala sightings in or near burnt areas, to Koalas in Care 6552 2183.

Turtles - Record the location, take a photograph and call Andrew Steed of the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment on 6659 8276.

Platypus - Stressed or injured platypus should be reported to MidCoast Council on 6591 7243.

Fish Kill - Please report fish kills, along with the location and species affected to the Department of Primary Industries on 1800 043 536.

Other native animals - Injured, stressed or at risk native animals should be captured if possible and reported to FAWNA 24hrs on 6581 4141.

RSPCA Bushfire Assistance

The Bushfire Assistance form below can be used by anyone affected by the fires that need assistance with animals (including wildlife). Simply complete the form and email it to online@rspcansw.org.au. Alternatively, the form can be completed online here.



Charities and other support

NSW Government agencies along with charity partners and local community organisations are helping to provide emergency shelter, food and water.

The best way to help our impacted communities is to donate money to one of the many charities or appeals that have been established.

Money gives people the choice to buy things they need and support local businesses that have also been impacted. 

Please do not donate physical goods such as toys, furniture and clothes at this time. They are usually not needed and take up too much space in community facilities, while taking volunteers away from other important tasks. If you have unwanted physical goods please consider selling them and donating the proceeds instead. 

  • The Salvation Army 13 72 58
  • Vinnies 13 18 12
  • The Red Cross 1800 733 276 

Vinnies Bushfire Relief

Vinnies provides support in times of emergencies such as food and grocery vouchers, clothing, toiletries, financial assistance, interest-free loans, emotional support and referrals.

For information on local assistance and support please call 6553 5598

RuralAid

Rural Aid provides a number of support programs for rural Australia.
These programs provide a range of support services from provision of animal feed, cash handouts, holidays and mental health assistance, education assistance and technology.

Call 1300 327 624 or visit www.ruralaid.org.au

BlazeAid

BlazeAid is a volunteer-based organisation that works with families and individuals in rural Australia after natural disasters such as fires. Working alongside the rural families, volunteers help to rebuild fences and other structures that have been damaged or destroyed. BlazeAid are currently working in the MidCoast area, based in Wingham.

To get assistance contact Wingham camp coordinators 0488 414 368 (John) and  0482 785 535 (Ian) or contact www.blazeaid.com.au

Samaritans 

The Samaritans are available to help people in the MidCoast area and can provide assistance such as:

  • Vouchers for food and essentials
  • Utility grants (power/gas, telephone/internet)
  • Special household/personal grants (clothing, bedding, kitchen utensils, furniture)
  • Personal needs (medical and pharmaceutical)
  • Vehicle grants (registration, insurance and petrol)
  • School assistance (books, uniforms, excursions)
  • Financial counselling
  • Homeowners effected by bushfire needing support to return to the land

Contact the Samaritans by phoning 1300 656 336. Appointments are held at the Samaritans' Taree Emergency Relief Centre, which is open Wednesdays 11am - 1pm. Phone 0438 067 272 to make an appointment.

Tinonee Outreach

Tinonee Outreach is a volunteer run organisation set up to assist MidCoast rural people with bushfire, drought, flood and COVID-19 impacts. They run a number of programs including:

  • Buddy program and weekly catch ups
  • Counselling
  • Supplies of groceries, toiletries, cleaning products, bedding, pet food, building materials, furniture and some fodder, depending on availability
  • Friday afternoon sessions: Government agencies and organisations are available for referrals
  • Fresh food Fridays, fresh food hampers for pickup and delivery
  • Bush library

Contact Tinonee Outreach by ringing Shazz: 0400 372 767 or Gina 0409 810 876 or email tinoneeoutreachinc@gmail.com

Tinonee Outreach is open Tuesday to Friday.

Manning Valley Neighbourhood Services (MVNS)

MVNS provides financial and/or material support for the MidCoast community affected by bushfires and experiencing financial hardship or crisis. Support includes:

  • Fuel, taxi, phone and food vouchers
  • Food, pet food, stock feed and clothing
  • Financial support

Contact MVNS by phoning 6553 5121.



Coordination of donations

The State Government has commissioned national not-for-profit organisation GIVIT to co-ordinate the donation of much-needed goods and services in bushfire-affected communities across the State.

For further information above GIVIT visit www.givit.org.au

For information on the Minister's announcement visit https://www.olg.nsw.gov.au/news/givit-co-ordinate-donations-goods-and-services-bushfire-affected-communities



Reporting bushfire hazards

If you are concerned about bush fire hazards on your property, or the property adjacent to you, the NSW Rural Fire Service (NSW RFS) can provide advice regarding preparing your property against bush fires and what you have to do in the event of a bush fire. Click here to report a bushfire hazard to the RFS.



Waste disposal

Sorted metal can be disposed of for free at any Waste Management centre. This allows fire impacted residents to take all their fencing wire, shed metal, car bodies, white goods (eg fridges and washing machines) and other metal.

Members of the community who have a fire damaged house or building that needs to be disposed of, should first speak to their insurer. If the building is uninsured, the Department of Public Works should be contacted.

MidCoast Council is also working with local contractors to establish sorted metal collection points for fire impacted members of the community in more remote locations.



NSW Government Financial Assistance

Economic Recovery and Community Resilience Grants

The NSW Government and the Australian Government have announced a $12 million grants program to support economic recovery and community resilience in the North Coast, Northern Tablelands and Mid North Coast regions, following the recent severe bushfires. This includes the MidCoast Council region.

The Economic Recovery and Community Resilience Grants Program will drive community and economic recovery at the local level and build community resilience to future disaster events.

Community and industry groups, councils and incorporated bodies will be able to apply for funding to implement recovery and resilience projects that will make a real and practical difference to fire-affected communities.

The $12 million grants program will provide $4 million to each of the North Coast, Mid North Coast and Northern Tablelands regions over a two year period. An additional $1.2 million will support administration and evaluation of the program.

Funding will be available for a range of initiatives including those that:

  • support councils and community organisations to provide recovery services
  • fund individual community initiatives or events that support local recovery
  • deliver community information programs or commemorative events
  • stimulate tourism and small business activity and create local job opportunities
  • restore cultural and heritage sites
  • build community resilience
  • invest in community infrastructure in fire-affected communities

The grants program will be implemented in partnership with local government in 2020 and 2021, with the first round to be opened in the coming months. Councils, community organisations and business groups are encouraged to start planning those recovery and resilience initiatives that will support fire-affected communities.

The NSW Office of Emergency Management (OEM) will be discussing implementation arrangements with councils, joint organisations and regional recovery committees, to ensure that funding is prioritised and made available to support recovery in the most fire-affected communities in each region.

This program is part of an $18.2 million joint State/Commonwealth Community Recovery Fund, which also includes funding for additional mental health services.

Recovery Grants and Mental Health Services

The NSW and Commonwealth Governments will provide up to $48.25 million to support the recovery of communities and industries in the North Coast, Mid North Coast and Northern Tablelands regions (this includes the MidCoast Council region), following the recent severe bushfires. This is the largest bushfire disaster relief funding package recorded in NSW.

What will the funding go towards?

  • $30 million for grants of up to $15,000 for primary producers and small businesses to assist with clean-up and the replacement of infrastructure, including repairing and replacing damaged fences, equipment and machinery. Applicants must derive more than 50% of their income from the farming operation or small business in question and demonstrate direct physical damage from the fires on their property. Grants do not cover those who have lost cash flow as a result of the fires.
  •  To support existing mental health resources, $4.05 million has been allocated to employ an additional nine Bushfire Recovery Clinicians across the three regions for 18 months for individuals, community groups and emergency services personnel, delivered in collaboration with general practitioners, allied health professionals, schools, public mental health services and private psychologists and psychiatrists;
  • $13.2 million is allocated to fund the Economic Recovery and Community Resilience Grants Program, with $4 million available for each of the North Coast, Mid North Coast and Northern Tablelands regions. Community and industry groups, local governments and incorporated bodies will be able to apply for funding to implement recovery and resilience projects that will make a real and practical difference to fire-affected communities.

The grants program will be implemented in partnership with local councils and joint organisations in 2020 and 2021.

Applying for a grant or access to mental health services

Enquiries and applications for primary producer and small business recovery grants can be made to the NSW Rural Assistance Authority on 1800 678 593 or online at https://www.raa.nsw.gov.au/grants/disaster-recovery-grants

Please contact your General Practitioner is you require mental health assistance.

For further information please see emergency.nsw.gov.au.

Other assistance measures

People who have lost important identity documents like a birth certificate or marriage certificate in the bushfires can have them replaced for free to help them recover as quickly as possible.

Individuals requiring a new driver’s licence will be issued with an interim licence on the spot allowing them to get back on the road immediately, with the new licence card being delivered 7 to 10 days after the transaction.

Service NSW’s Mobile Service Centres are visiting bushfire affected communities to assist customers with government transactions, including replacement identity documents.



Office of Emergency Management newsletters

These newsletters include important general information and advice as well as useful contact numbers and helplines.



Immediately after a fire

General advice

  • Do not enter your property until you are advised that it is safe to do so by emergency services, utilities companies or local council.
  • Electrical hazards could exist such as live power lines that may be down or active solar panels.
  • Buildings and other structures may be unstable to enter or walk over.
  • Sewerage services may be disrupted causing health risks.
  • Be aware that hot, smouldering coals and other potentially hazardous materials may be hidden under the rubble.
  • Building rubble should not be buried as it may contain hazardous materials.
  • Don’t spread ash around your property, particularly if asbestos materials were used in your home or other structures, or CCA-treated timber was burnt.
  • Moisten the ash with water to minimise dust and keep damp but do not use high pressure water sprays.

Hazard identification notices

A hazard identification notice indicates dangers like electrical risks, falling branches or asbestos may have been identified at your property.

Only return home when you have been given approval. When you do, even if there is no sign, there may still be hazards on your property.

Please ensure you wear a P2 face mask, which can filter out very fine particles from the air.

If the Hazard Identification Notice indicates asbestos is suspected on your property, you can get further information from the Public Works Advisory.

  • Call the Public Works Advisory on 1800 88 55 39.

Fire retardant contamination

Retardants dropped from the air to suppress / slow fires may have landed on some properties. This type of retardant is basically a fertiliser (a mix of ammonium and diammonium sulphate and ammonium phosphate). Coloured foam will need to be flushed from roofs and water sources.

To prevent any retardant or ash getting into water tanks, residents should disconnect their downpipe/s from water tank/s, so that the first flush (either rain or washing) does not wash anything from the roof into tanks.

  • Contact the Disaster Welfare Assistance Line on 1800 018 444.

Using rainwater after a fire

It’s important for residents in fire affected areas, or in areas where ash may have fallen on roofs, to ensure rainwater from the first full rainfall event is not collected as it may be contaminated by ash.

If you think that your rainwater tank has been contaminated you can still use the water to fight fires, flush toilets and wash clothes (provided it will not stain them).

Smoke damage

If your home has been damaged by smoke - including your clothes, furniture or carpets - you may be eligible for the Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment.

Your health

When smoky, avoid vigorous exercise outside, especially if you have asthma, diabetes, heart disease or a breathing related condition.

If you have an air conditioner at home, turn it on and use it in a recirculate mode.

If you are experiencing any adverse reactions to the dust or smoke, such as shortness of breath, prolonged coughing or wheezing, seek medical advice.

Tank water could have become contaminated from debris, retardant, ash or dead animals. If the water tastes, looks or smells unusual, do not drink it or give it to animals.

All foods that have been fire-damaged or affected by heat should be thrown out - including refrigerated foods if there has been a power outage during the fire. 


 

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