Family

Help with bushfire recovery

On this page you will find information to support you as you recover from the fires that hit the MidCoast area in November 2019.

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

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.

Disaster 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


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 disaster.

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.

Contact details below:

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 the Rural Adversity Mental Health Program website for more information.


Other support

These fact sheets may also help:

Let's Talk - where to find help for mental health concerns

Free mental health support for people affected by bushfires

Take Care of Yourself

Coping with community crisis or natural disaster

Coping with loss and change in a community after natural disaster

Getting through floods, drought and extreme climate events

Helping children cope after a natural disaster

National Recovery and Resilience 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 further information please head to their website.


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.

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
  • 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.


Mid North Coast Financial counselling service

Mid North Coast Financial counselling service can assist with mortgages, car loans and credit card arrears, accessing super or other entitlements, or if there is enough income to make ends meet or just listen and provide options that might not have been thought of or known about.

The service can advocate on your behalf with banks, insurance companies, superannuation funds or any other organisation which you might need to deal with in regard to your financial situation. This is a free service.

Pauline Smith Ph: 0457 628 302
psmith@kempseync.org.au

Steven McWilliams Ph: 0448 676 091
smcwilliams@kempseync.org.au

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

Getting through floods, drought and extreme climate events


Low interest loans

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 incurred.

Call the Rural Assistance Authority on 1800 678 593.


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, go to their website.

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.

Small Business Recovery Toolkit

The NSW Small Business Commission has developed a range of resources to help small business owners recover from disasters. Visit the Building small business resilience webpage to access these resources.

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.

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.

Call 1300 134 359 or register at industry.nsw.gov.au/businessconnect

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.

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.


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.


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, call the Public Works Advisory on 1800 88 55 39.


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.

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


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.

If you were the property owner at the time of the bushfires, 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, 02 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 Accommodation Policy

Our Temporary Accommodation Policy 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.


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 on Essential Energy

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.


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

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

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 02 6553 5598.


Mid Coast Outreach Incorporated

Mid Coast Outreach Incorporated 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 Mid Coast Outreach Incorporated by ringing Sharon: 0400 372 767

Mid Coast Outreach Incorporated 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 02 6553 5121.

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

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.

Helping wildlife through bushfire and drought situations - Factsheet.

Fire Recovery Factsheet: Vegetation and weeds

Fire Recovery Factsheet: Water stations

Fire Recovery Factsheet: Waterway health

Fire Recovery Factsheet: Wildlife

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.