Eighteen months have now passed since the horrific 2019-20 bushfires that engulfed much of the nation.
While the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic quickly pushed the bushfires to the back of some peoples' minds, that doesn't mean its effects aren't still being felt.
Wingecarribee Shire was one of the worst hit regions with two major fire fronts, Green Wattle and Currowan, surrounding populated areas.
To the North, towns such as Balmoral and Hill Top were ravaged while the Currowan fire to the south jumped the Shoalhaven River and swept through parts of Exeter and Bundanoon without warning.
Since then there have been a raft of funding announcements to assist with bushfire recovery.
But what has that looked like for the Southern Highlands?
In total there have been 29 individual grants distributed from the Federal and State Government to various causes via Council.
These can be broadly divided into four main categories:
- Community Resilience and Economic Recovery Grant (BCRERG)
- Disaster Recovery Funding
- Regional Tourism Bushfire Recovery Grant (RTBR)
- NSW Environment Protection Authority Grant
Additionally Landcare has recently announced that grants of up to $50,000 are being made available for designated areas, which the Highlands falls into.
What has been spent where?
Funding ranges from literal disaster recovery to tourism boosting with some significant highlights.
$100,000 was set aside for agribusiness and equine recovery. That was followed up by an extra $410,000 worth of funding as part of the BCRERG. This mostly consists of rebuilding and small grants.
$100,000 was also assigned to flora and fauna regeneration while $300,000 went towards rate relief for completely destroyed properties.
A further $815,000 was given to Disaster Recovery Funding with $225,000 of that going towards tree removal.
A combined $50,000 went towards restoration work on Glow Worm Glen walking track and the mountain bike trails at Wingello and Bundanoon.
A one-off Mayoral Relief Fund of $120,000 was also made available to fire-affected property owners in the form of financial assistance.
Meanwhile the Federal Government's RTBR grants totaled $140,000 with 'Pie Time' receiving $40,000 of that to encourage tourism during 2021.
A Southern Highlands Food and Wine Association stakeholders, group in conjunction with the council, also received $50,000 to deliver the 'Savour the Unexpected' festival.
What comes next?
With a grand total of $2,035,000 allocated so far, the Southern Highlands is well poised to continue bouncing back.
However it won't be a simple matter of providing funding with Mr May calling for a report into how the council responded to the bushfires.
This comes after the council made a late submission to the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements.
While not highlighting any action or inaction in particular, Mr May said it would be necessary to ensure the region was better prepared in the face of any future disasters.
"This may prove to be a 'warts and all' report," Mr May said.
"But if mistakes were made it's imperative we learn from these lessons to avoid repeating the same errors, if heaven forbid, the shire is faced with a similar threat."
No announcement has been made yet regarding funding made available by Landcare.
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