Floods of despair on bushfire anniversary

·3-min read

Phil Mayberry stands in his garden shop, ankle deep in water.

Nearly two years ago to the day he was wetting the ground in the same spot before fleeing, hoping the shop would be spared from oncoming bushfires.

It is the same story for many people in the small town of Mogo, nearly 300km from Sydney on the NSW south coast.

While Mr Mayberry's business and home survived the black summer fires, others were not so lucky.

Just a few hundred metres up the road a leather goods store was completely decimated by the fires.

In 2022 the regional township is recovering from flood damage after heavy rains and a king tide hit the area on December 10.

"(The bushfires) were so indiscriminate and random, we were simply lucky our building wasn't affected," Mr Mayberry told AAP.

"With these floods it was just an absolute river running through the middle of town, we've never seen anything like it."

Former NSW Fire and Rescue commissioner Greg Mullins helped fight the bushfires that threatened Batemans Bay and Mogo two years ago.

He told AAP after black summer people had hoped the devastation would finally bring attention to the ongoing climate issues facing Australia.

But then the pandemic arrived, diverting focus and leaving firefighters and communities frustrated and bewildered, he said.

Two years on from the 2019-20 bushfires, some people who lost their homes are still living in insecure accommodation, including tents and caravans.

"There is a sense of bordering on despair, with firefighters wondering if it was all worth it," Mr Mullins said.

"Part of it is because we all worked our guts out trying to save homes and people and some are still living in tents because there is not enough support."

In the Eden-Monaro electorate of Labor MP Kristy McBain - which includes much of the NSW far south coast and Snowy Mountain region - one million hectares burned during black summer.

The area was also affected by the recent severe flooding. One woman died after getting trapped in her car at Tuross in the Snowy Monaro region.

Despite the competing pressures, Ms McBain told AAP the focus had moved on too quickly from bushfire recovery.

"These communities say they feel abandoned and that is a pretty horrible thing to hear from people who thought they would be a priority moving forward," she said.

"It is disheartening for a lot of people who want to move on, and the thing that would assist would be getting people back into some form of secure housing."

Since 2016, the Eden-Monaro region has experienced 36 declared natural disasters. Two of the six local government areas in the region are classified as bushfire priorities. None are flood priority areas.

Mr Mullins - who founded the Emergency Leaders for Climate Action organisation - said recovering from natural disasters will soon cost more than measures to prevent climate change.

"I'm not surprised or shocked by the floods, storms, heat waves and drought because it's now become a trend," he said.

"The science is very clear. Black summer will be an average summer by 2040 and by 2060 it will be a cool summer.

"We need to get ahead of the curve."

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