WINGECARRIBEE Shire Council general manager David McGowan says the whole community should be proud of its contribution in helping to repel the devastating bush fires that seriously threatened the northern villages.
While disaster planning has been active for many years in the shire, all that preparation paid off when fire engulfed the village of Hill Top on New Year’s Eve.
Asked to look after about 300 displaced residents, the disaster centre at Mittagong RSL Club could have provided relief for up to 6000 people if needed.
Although the firefighters rightly received the major plaudits for their tireless efforts in saving countless homes, Mr McGowan says the whole community joined forces with the council in displaying that famous Australian commitment in times of crisis.
He praised the emergency planning team and police, ambulance and state emergency service for their huge contributions while also saving a word for the people behind the scenes like council staff.
Many came in during their holidays to ensure that water, sewerage and garbage collections were maintained while assisting in so many other small ways.
Mr McGowan said he was keen to respond after reading an article in Friday’s Southern Highland News in which a Hill Top resident accused councillors of showing a lack of concern, an accusation he felt was very unfair.
“Although they wouldn’t like to be singled out publicly, people like Charles Dunlop (Council’s technical services manager) and his wife tirelessly gave up their own time to help.
“Others like the mayor (Phil Yeo) have also made a great contribution, despite going through tremendous personal difficulties at this time.
“Council has been highly involved in the whole operation providing things like water tankers, graders and the use of photocopying machines and computers free of charge, as people would expect us to do in any emergency like this.
“I would say that a third of our organisation was involved at some stage during the crisis and we have literally taken hundreds of phone calls in that time.
“It’s testimony to that work that he haven’t lost a single home throughout the past three weeks and everyone should be congratulated on that, as well as being very thankful”.
In a full-page advertisement to officially record the council’s gratitude in Wednesday’s paper, Mayor Phil Yeo says the fires have touched everyone in the community in some way.
“This particular fire event has passed but it is not a time to be complacent - we live in a very bushfire-prone area.
“The bush is part of the character of Wingecarribee Shire and with every summer comes danger.
“I urge people to take precautions against fire and I again thank everyone, whatever part they played, in managing one of the most potentially damaging natural events ever faced in Wingecarribee Shire”.