ONE YEAR ON: Tabulam fire
ONE YEAR ON: Tabulam fire

‘Forgotten’ fire victims still waiting

MORE than one year on from the bushfires which destroyed more than 18 homes and terrorised the Tabulam community, residents are still working tirelessly to rebuild their lives.

However, Lismore MP Janelle Saffin said this has been harder for some than others.

Ms Saffin said her month-long lobbying for Tenterfield and Kyogle small businesses to be eligible for the Federal and NSW governments' $10,000 bushfire support grants had paid off in a major win for both communities.

Ms Saffin said she welcomed NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro's announcement that Tenterfield Shire and Kyogle councils were among 13 additional local government areas included in the program and said the decision was "victory for common sense."

"Office of Emergency Management impact reports put Tenterfield and Kyogle next after Clarence Valley and Richmond Valley LGAs in terms of homes destroyed and property damage. Road closures caused major disruption to business," she said.

"I'm pleased to have played a part in convincing Mr Barilaro to do the right thing by local businesses who told me they had suffered trading losses with bushfires on their doorsteps and who couldn't believe they were being locked out of assistance."

However, Ms Saffin said Mr Barilaro was either being "disingenuous or simply out of touch" during a recent radio interview when he said he was not aware of residents' battles to rebuild after a grassfire destroyed up to 20 homes in Tabulam in February 2019.

Ms Saffin said she had made numerous representations to NSW Emergency Services Minister David Elliott on behalf of constituents impacted by "the forgotten fires" at Tabulam and Wallangarra, north of Tenterfield, which was also impacted by fires in February 2019.

"These people have been crying out for assistance and their plight is no different from others currently receiving a helping hand," she said.

"In Tabulam, three uninsured homeowners lost their homes and I was able to arrange particular help for them and none as yet have replacement homes commenced.

"Meanwhile, these residents live in makeshift accommodation with winter approaching.

"So while I welcome Mr Barilaro's good news about bushfire support grants which may benefit local businesses in places like Tabulam and Drake, I hope he gets up to speed on how he might offer real help and some hope to residents, many of them farmers."

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