Tag: Mr Constance

NSW Minister tears into Red Cross for sitting on bushfire donations while victims suffer

Batemans Bay 2536

At an emotional press conference in Batemans Bay, Member for Bega Andrew Constance came out swinging against the Red Cross, Salvation Army and St Vincent De Paul for taking too long to distribute money.

Key points:

  • Andrew Constance said money needs to get to people who are “on their knees”.
  • Australian Red Cross has allocated $30 million of the $95 million donated so far
  • Mr Constance challenges charity bosses to come and see the bushfire devastation

“The money is needed now, not sitting in a Red Cross bank account earning interest so they can map out their next three years and do their marketing,” Mr Constance said.

“We need a very real change, very quickly so that the money can get to those who need it most … people are on their knees and we can’t have a drip-feed.”

The Australian Red Cross has received $95 million to date and on Wednesday announced they have allocated $30 million to victims.

A spokesperson said the organisation has paid out 559 grants but has 1,492 open applications.

St Vincent De Paul has raised $12.5 million and spent close to $1.1 million through financial packages for eligible households.

Since the Salvation Army’s bushfire appeal began in November, $43 million has been pledged and $11 million has been received.

From September to now, $7.6 million worth of goods and cash relief has been distributed.


Areas of the South Coast were completely wiped out by bushfires. (ABC News: Ian Cutmore)

Over the last two months, people all over the world have donated generously to charity appeals, the Rural Fire Service (RFS), Celeste Barber’s Facebook fundraiser and animal rescue organisations like the RSPCA.

Mr Constance, the NSW Minister for Transport and Roads, said it was “gutting” to learn only a third of the money donated to the Red Cross has been distributed when there are people who cannot afford the basics.

He said he had met people who are so traumatised they cannot even leave their properties to register for relief.


A group gathers at a burnt out property near Nerrigundah. (Supplied: Facebook)

The Minister, who has admitted he will need trauma counselling, issued a challenge to the managing directors of the three charities to come and see how people are living.

“Meet me in Batemans Bay at 8.00am on Saturday and I’ll drive you the 300 kilometres of devastation on the far south coast.

“I’ll show you the people, you can look them in their eyes and you can see their despair and the destruction that this firebomb brought to our region.

“They better turn up, they better have the guts to show up and be with me … I’ll show them communities which haven’t been on the map, like Kiah, like Nerrigundah, like the back of Bemboka, like Cooma.”

The CEOs of St Vincent De Paul NSW and Canberra, Jack De Groot and Barnie van Wyk, have accepted Mr Constance’s invitation.

The charity said over the past three days Mr van Wyk has overseen the distribution of $200,000 in financial relief to bushfire-affected locals on the south coast.

Over the new year period, areas of the south coast were completely wiped out by bushfires, with devastating losses in Batemans Bay, Conjola Park, Conjola, Cobargo and Mogo.

‘Keen to get the money out’: Red Cross

Red Cross director of Australian services Noel Clement said there was an absolute commitment to getting money in victim’s pockets.

“We are keen to get the money out but we also need to make sure it’s getting where it’s needed,” he said.

Mr Clements admitted some people were waiting weeks for relief money as there were challenges in proving where they lived after losing everything.

“We must manage the money so we aren’t scammed … we want to make sure we are protecting donor’s funds,” he said.

He emphasised that recovery is a “long-term process” and it will take six months for some people to make claims or decide whether to rebuild.


A Red Cross worker with a woman in a razed home. (Supplied: Red Cross Australia)

In a statement, the Red Cross said chief executive Judy Slatyer had been on the South Coast last week meeting with residents and had made “several attempts” to contact Mr Constance.

A spokesperson for the Salvation Army said their emergency relief was being distributed at evacuation and relief centres in bushfire zones.

“We understand relief can never happen fast enough for people in these traumatic circumstances. We are working as fast as we can,” they said.

How to protect yourself from scams:

  • Do not donate via fundraising pages that do not verify the legitimacy of the fundraiser
  • Be careful about crowdfunding requests as these may be fake and also come from scammers
  • Check the terms and conditions of funding platforms and ensure you are dealing with official organisations
  • Check a charity is registered by searching the Australia Charities and Not-for-profits Commission Charity Register

Former emergency service commissioner Peter Dunn is a Conjola local helping to lead the community’s recovery efforts and said donations have been “overwhelming” but long-term management was vital.

“I saw this in the Canberra [bushfires] in 2003 … there is enormous generosity when people are seeing images and hearing the stories on the media,” he said.

“But after three-to-six months, other events take over and they catch the public’s imagination and naturally, the donation flow starts to diminish.”

He said this would be around this time when victims began to rebuild.

During the first few months, homes need to be inspected, insurance claims finalised and asbestos cleared from the land, he said.

“But of course by then the focus of the public has gone elsewhere,” Mr Dunn said.

How much has been donated?RecipientAmountCharitiesRed Cross Disaster Relief and Recovery$95mSalvation Army Disaster Appeal$44mVinnies NSW Bushfire Appeals in NSW, Qld, ACT, SA and Victoria$11.5mFoundation for Rural & Regional Renewal (Disaster Resilience & Recovery Fund)$4mGippsland Emergency Relief Fund$3.2mState government and local council appealsVictorian Bushfire Appeal$23.3mSA Bushfire Appeal$4mKangaroo Island Mayoral Relief and Recovery Bushfire Fund$2mLocal fire services and brigadesNew South Wales Rural Fire Service$51mVictoria’s Country Fire Authority$1.7mSouth Australia’s Country Fire Service Foundation $1mAnimal welfare organisationsWildlife Information Rescue and Education Service (WIRES) Emergency Fund$11mWildlife Victoria Bushfire Appeal$170KRSPCA appeals nationally$6.2mOrganisations donating goods and servicesFoodbank Natural Disaster Relief$2mGIVIT – 20,000 items distributed to fire affected communities in NSW and QLD$2.9mTotal money donated (at January 22)$263mGovernment contributionsCommonwealth$2bnNSW (over two years to rebuild infrastructure incl. roads, schools)$1bnVictoria (part of joint funding with the Commonwealth)$86m

External Link:

ABC embed: Tell us your bushfire questions

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

‘Welcome he deserved’: Liberal MP speaks out as bushfire victims, firefighters shun PM

Bega 2550

Senior NSW Liberal Andrew Constance says the Prime Minister got “the welcome he probably deserved” when he was yesterday heckled by angry residents in a bushfire-ravaged town.

Key points:

  • Mr Constance, is the NSW Government’s Transport Minister
  • The PM yesterday visited the town of Cobargo, which is in Mr Constance’s electorate
  • Mr Morrison said he wouldn’t take Mr Constance’s comments personally

Pictures from Scott Morrison’s awkward visit to Cobargo, on the NSW South Coast, were beamed around the world and went viral on social media.

People in the town, where a father and son died in a blaze earlier this week, shouted and heckled the Prime Minister during the brief trip.

Mr Constance said he was not aware Mr Morrison would be visiting his electorate of Bega, which includes Cobargo, and told Seven News that “I haven’t had a call from him”.

Follow our live blog for updates on bushfires and the evacuations.


Dozens of homes and businesses were destroyed in Cobargo. (Supplied)

Speaking from Bairnsdale, in Victoria’s fire-affect East Gippsland region, the Prime Minister apologised to Mr Constance and said “I totally understand how he’d be feeling”.

“I’ve reached out to him today, and offered that apology to him,” Mr Morrison said.

“I was under the understanding that we had made contact with him. That wasn’t the case. And that’s regretted.

“But I assumed that he was otherwise occupied on that day, which would be completely understandable.

“But Andrew’s been through a terrible, terrible experience and ordeal, and so I totally understand how he’d be feeling.”


Andrew Constance said Scott Morrison “probably got the welcome he deserved”. (AAP: Dan Himbrechts)

Speaking on Sunrise, Mr Constance had earlier savaged the Prime Minister.

“To be honest with you, the locals probably gave him the welcome he probably deserved,” he said.

“I say this to the Prime Minister today, the nation wants you to open up the cheque books, obviously help people rebuild their lives.”

Mr Morrison’s visit to Cobargo made international headlines.

During one particularly tense interaction, Mr Morrison grabbed the hand of a woman who had refused to shake his hand.

As the Prime Minister was leaving, people swore at him and told him he should be “ashamed of himself” after he “left the country to burn”.

Video: Scott Morrison forces Zoey Salucci McDermott to shake his hand in Cobargo

(ABC News)

In another exchange, Mr Morrison grabbed the hand of an exhausted firefighter in Cobargo who told him “I don’t really want to shake your hand”.

“Tell that fella I’m really sorry, I’m sure he’s just tired,” Mr Morrison told a local incident controller afterwards.

“No, no. He lost a house,” the area’s fire controller responded.

Mr Morrison was criticised for holidaying in Hawaii while the deadly bushfire emergency gripped NSW and Queensland in December.

Some people have also taken aim at his Government for not doing enough to combat climate change.


This terrifying blaze razed parts of Cobargo on Tuesday. (Supplied: Josh Mead)

Mr Constance, who defended his own home in the area from flames on Tuesday, said “this was the feeling people were going through”.

“Having lived through this myself, it’s tough,” he said.

“You can’t experience this … it’s cruel, it’s nasty. The Cobargo community lost people, a wonderful family there.”

The NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian stood by Mr Constance during an interview with 2GB on Friday morning.

“I don’t begrudge anyone who is on the ground … I don’t begrudge anyone for feeling the way they do,” she said.

“I know Andrew has raw emotion as do many members of his community and I don’t blame people for feeling angry.”


Robert and Patrick Salway died defending their Cobargo property on New Year’s Eve. (Supplied)

Liz Innes, the Mayor of the neighbouring Eurobodalla Shire Council, apologised to the Prime Minister in the wake of his chaotic visit.

“There’s a few examples of not so great behaviour and so I just want to say sorry to Scott Morrison for the behaviour and treatment he received,” she said.

“Look I know people are scared, they’re angry, they’re hurt but that’s not the images that I want to see coming out of my beautiful area.”

After the confrontations in Cobargo, Mr Morrison told the ABC: “I’m not surprised people are feeling very raw at the moment.

“That’s why I came today, to be here, to see it for myself [and] offer what comfort I could.

“I understand the strong feelings people have; they’ve lost everything. There’s been a lot of emotion … and I understand that emotion.”

More bushfire coverage:

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

NSW Premier declares state of emergency ahead of ‘horrible’ fire conditions


NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has declared a seven-day state of emergency starting at 9:00am on Friday due to the ongoing bushfire crisis.

Key points:

  • Seven-day state of emergency declared for NSW as bushfire conditions worsen
  • Fire conditions on Saturday are expected to be worse than New Year’s Eve
  • Holidaymakers have been urged to leave the South Coast ahead of Saturday

It will mean forced evacuations and road closures for people in bushfire zones ahead of Saturday’s forecast “horrible” fire conditions.

NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said Saturday was likely to bring conditions more dangerous than New Year’s Eve, when bushfires left seven dead and thousands in peril.

“There’ll be real challenges and very real risks associated with what’s being forecast and predicted for fire spread under the sorts of weather conditions we’re expecting as we head into Saturday,” he said.

“The conditions on Saturday are likely to be worse than New Year’s Eve and a lot of those areas in the south-east quadrant of the state have the potential to be impacted — and impacted very heavily.”


In Batemans Bay, the beach was the only option for many fleeing the bushfire ravaging the South Coast. (Twitter: Alastairprior)

Follow our live blog for updates on bushfires and the evacuations.

A “tourist leave zone” has been declared for a 14,000-square-kilometre area between Nowra and the edge of Victoria’s northern border.

The NSW RFS initially declared a leave zone between Batemans Bay down to the border, but extended that zone to the area between Nowra and Ulladulla late on Thursday.

It is the “largest mass relocation of people out of the region that we’ve ever seen,” NSW Minister for Transport Andrew Constance said.

RFS Deputy Commissioner Rob Rogers said it was a race against the clock to get tourists out before Saturday.

The NSW RFS declared a “tourist leave zone” between Batemans Bay and the northern edge of the Victorian border.
(Supplied: NSW Rural Fire Service)

External Link:

@NSWRFS: Leave Zone – Shoalhaven Widespread extreme Fire Danger forecast for Shoalhaven Sat 4 Jan 2020. If you're holidaying in areas identified on the map, you need to leave before Saturday. Residents should be aware & prepare. For road closure info @LiveTrafficNSW #nswrfs #nswfires

“We have so many fires still burning down there … and quite close to communities as well,” he said.

“We won’t get containment on those fires before Saturday.”

Residents told to evacuate in southern NSW

Strong winds, scorching temperatures and low humidity are forecast for Saturday with temperatures set to hit 41 degrees Celsius on the South Coast.

The Princes Highway is closed between Milton and Tomerong, and between Batemans Bay and Moruya.

The Kings Highway, which connects Batemans Bay to Canberra, remains closed.

However, George Bass Drive, which runs along the coast, is open south of the Bay, with heavy traffic conditions in place.

Any changes to traffic conditions will be updated on the NSW Live Traffic website.

Police and emergency services have been escorting people out of the Bendalong, Manyana and Cunjurong areas — north of Ulladulla — about 20 cars at a time.

Those villages were cut off after the Currowan fire decimated large swathes of Conjola Park.

Video: People passing through Bega describe the fires they are fleeing.

(ABC News)

Traffic on major highways is heavy as holidaymakers attempt to flee the region under reduced speed limits.

How to get out of the ‘leave zone’
As authorities race to prepare for horror bushfire conditions along the NSW South Coast on Saturday, the message being sent to tourists stranded in the area since New Year’s Eve is clear: get out now.

“People are going to have to be patient on the roads,” Mr Constance said.

“We need people to stick to the major roads, stick to the roads that are open.”

Journalist Phil Coorey was traveling between Cooma and Bega and described a major traffic jam with many hundreds of cars, caravans and trucks backed up as far as he could see.

“There were hundreds, if not thousands, more cars as I got past the tailback coming the other way to add to it,” he said.


A long line of cars trying to leave Batemans Bay on the NSW South Coast before dangerous fire conditions on Saturday. (ABC News: Jonathan Hair)

“I saw one police car on the entire trip. I stopped at an RFS checkpoint and told these traffic guys and they said they’re aware of it but ‘the police are too stretched.'”

Sydney ABC reporter Johanna McDiarmid was holidaying with her family in Ulladulla and said it was “bumper-to-bumper” in South Nowra.

They had detoured through into Conjola Park, where scores of homes were razed, to collect family friends before travelling further north towards Wollongong.

“You could see the power poles on the roads, powerlines across the driveway,” she said.

Town ‘not defendable’

In the south of the state, residents in the town of Batlow have been told their community will not be defendable if fire forecasts become a reality tomorrow afternoon.

The area is home to 1,300 people.

The Dunns Road fire, which is threatening the town, also prompted the evacuation of the Kosciuszko National Park and a nearby prison on Thursday, after burning through 130,000 hectares in recent days.

The RFS designated a leave zone around the town and surrounding country on Thursday afternoon, and told residents to get out urgently.

“If you are in this area, particularly in the general area from Batlow North to Wondalga, and west to Blowering Dam, you need to leave before tomorrow,” the notice said

Fuel demands overwhelm supply

Mr Constance acknowledged that many evacuees were struggling to find fuel — long queues were seen stretching out from petrol stations around Batemans Bay.

“We’re trying to get out of here as the authorities want us to leave,” holidaymaker Tracey Feeney said.

“So we’re just waiting for all their garages to open up, they’ve apparently got no power still.”


An evacuee in Pambula, NSW found this signage outside a house offering food, water, shower and shelter. (Supplied: Anita Glover)

Mr Constance said tankers carrying up to 60,000 litres of fuel were brought in overnight.

“People are queueing up to get into petrol stations,” he said.

“Obviously there is a limit … so people need to gauge their fuel.

“You can’t leave on an empty tank, because the power is off in a lot of places. We need people to be well planned.”

Frustrated and worried people are forming lengthy queues outside supermarkets, hoping to stock up on food, camping supplies and other necessities.

A patient crowd lined up outside Moruya Woolworths, where limited staff were permitting 20 people at a time to manage the situation and avoid rushes.

Video: Dozens of residents are queuing to get into Woolworths for supplies while visitors are making their way out of fire-stricken areas

(ABC News)

The evacuation order came as the RFS revealed 382 homes were destroyed by the South Coast fires on New Year’s Eve.

It brings the total number of homes lost this bushfire season to 1,298.

Deputy Commissioner Rogers said the destruction was going to get a lot worse.

Video: NSW Rural Fire Service is urging tourists in towns from Batemans Bay to the Victorian border to leave today

(ABC News)

“The unfortunate part of this is that that’s not the end of it,” he said.

“There are more homes that are lost and crews will be out again today trying to account for all of those so we can give residents surety on what’s happened to their particular homes.”

Eight people are known to have died since Wednesday in a horror week for bushfires across the country, including a father-son duo and a volunteer firefighter.


The remains of a home at Conjola Park after a bushfire swept through on New Year’s Eve. (ABC News: Selby Stewart)

A 63-year-old man and his 29-year-old son died in Cobargo on Tuesday while defending their property and volunteer firefighter Samuel McPaul died after his truck flipped in a fire tornado in Jingellic, just north of the Victorian border.

Another three bodies were found at Lake Conjola, and one man was found in a burnt-out car at nearby Yatte Yattah.

Mr Constance said the speed of the fire on New Year’s Eve should be a warning to locals and visitors about the dangerous conditions forecast for Saturday.

“I think the fire moved at a pace that no-one expected. It shot round the back of Nelligen to Runnyford, hit Mogo pretty hard and then just burned through to the beach,” Mr Constance said.

“It’s devastating, but we’ll pull together.”

More bushfire coverage:

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

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