Snowy Valleys bushfire clean-up delay leaves survivors in limbo

LIMBO: Professor Sue Townsend of Tumbarumba speaks at the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements earlier this year.
LIMBO: Professor Sue Townsend of Tumbarumba speaks at the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements earlier this year.

A Tumbarumba woman who lost her home in the Dunns Road fire is still "stuck in limbo" until spring following delays in the bushfire clean-up.

Latest figures show 54 per cent of eligible properties have been cleared in the Snowy Valleys, according to contractor Laing O'Rourke, with 20 more clean-ups expected to be completed this week.

Professor Sue Townsend said while she had no criticism of Laing O'Rourke for its work once on the ground, the five-month wait for clean-up efforts had been damaging.

"For four of those months there was actually no word whatsoever on what was happening," she said.

Professor Townsend and her husband purchased a caravan with the intent of living on their property while rebuilding, but were forced away for months while awaiting an asbestos check.

The couple are now living with their son in Henty.

She said while they were one of the first in Tumbarumba to have their property cleared, they have still not been able to return home.

"That was finished nearly four weeks ago but because it's taken so long and we don't have running water or septic or anything like that up there, it's too cold for us to live under those conditions," she said.

"We now can't return to our property on a permanent basis or start rebuilding until at least September when it's warm enough to be up there again."

Professor Townsend said while they were fortunate to have a free place to stay in the Riverina, many people were needing to rent a place until spring. "That's taking away their ability for their rebuild," she said.

"You just can't move forward with your life and therefore the emotional impact of the fires just keeps building."

She said the continued delays were caused by the time it took to organise the clean-up, rather than the speed of the process now it was happening.

"It's not the contractors who are at fault, they've from our perspective done a really good job, it's the process to get to this point," she said.

Laing O'Rourke is continuing to work with councils and Service NSW to find anyone still needing assistance.

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