LISMORE MP Janelle Saffin has given heartfelt thanks to firefighters battling to contain the Long Gully Road bushfire between Drake and Tabulam, and to crews who risked their lives to save Tenterfield during the Mount Mackenzie Road fire last Friday.
On Wednesday, September 11, Ms Saffin, who was in Tenterfield and Drake at the weekend returned to the firefronts with NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, Deputy Premier John Barilaro, Emergency Services Minister David Elliott and Agriculture Minister and Northern Tablelands MP Adam Marshall.
Ms Saffin said the high-level visit showed the NSW Government’s concern for her constituents affected by the onslaught of an early bushfire season, and it was kept real with a sausage sandwich the order of the day at Drake.
She echoed Tenterfield Shire mayor Cr Peter Petty’s public tribute to Rural Fire Service volunteer Neville Smith, who was critically injured while protecting a neighbouring property to one owned by Tenterfield councillor Bronwyn Petrie.
“Our thoughts and prayers are for Neville and his family as he receives treatment in intensive care in Royal Brisbane Hospital,” Ms Saffin said.
“I cannot speak highly enough of our fireys — on the ground and in the air — who are putting it all on the line to keep others safe from harm and to protect properties, livestock and pets.
“Our police officers have been amazing and I thank our local media too for being there and staying on air to broadcast vital information.
“It certainly has been touch and go for many residents, and it has been heart-wrenching to meet and offer support to families and individuals who have lost their homes, sheds, farm machinery and animals.
“I was on the phone to ministers as was Federal Member for New England Barnaby Joyce to ensure that a natural disaster declaration was made as early as possible for Tenterfield Shire.
“I commend the Office of Emergency Management on its recovery effort under Wendy Graham and Jeremy Hillman, who was here for the Tabulam fires in February.
“The RFS is controlling fires at Flagstone Road, Legume, and Duke Creek Road, Old Bonalbo, and with so many fires burning across the Northern Rivers and Northern Tablelands, and in Queensland, we must remain vigilant.”
Ms Saffin encouraged all residents affected by the bushfires in Tenterfield Shire to check her website www.janellesaffin.com.au on available State Government assistance or to contact her office on 0266 213 624 for help.
Ms Saffin said that while the Peter Allen Festival went ahead last weekend in subdued fashion, her focus switched to the firefronts on Mount Mackenzie and Scrub roads in Tenterfield and Long Gully Road between Drake and Tabulam.
On Saturday night, Ms Saffin and Cr Petty visited the Evacuation Centre at Tenterfield Showground, where they personally thanked RFS brigade members during their dinner break between shifts. Salvation Army volunteers kept the food coming.
They also met with Communities and Justice disaster welfare officers Jacqueline Flanagan, of Inverell, and Sharon Ritchie, of Glen Innes, and with disaster recovery chaplain Peter Overton, of Casino.
On Sunday, Ms Saffin received a detailed briefing on the Long Gully Road fire from Drake RFS Captain Scott Corby and personally thanked members of his brigade for their efforts.
She also thanked licensee of The Lunatic Hotel Motel in Drake, Amanda Hartley, for her generous support of homeless and displaced residents and for feeding more than 120 firefighters who had converged on Drake as the fire raged.
Ms Saffin then helped Drake Village Resource Centre volunteer Felicity Cahill by actioning her request to get Essential Energy to restore power to Drake and surrounding areas at a critical time.
She attended a community briefing at Drake Hall on Sunday afternoon but could not make a follow-up meeting yesterday (Tuesday, September 10), sending the following communique to Drake residents via Ms Cahill:
“I want to assure all that you are in my thoughts and heart as you face this ferocious fire or fires.
I shall continue to advocate to ensure you all get the assistance that you require during this emergency.
Given that there has been a natural disaster declaration for the Tenterfield Shire, you can be eligible to a range of assistance.
Some of you will know this from previous experience. It is important to register so that if you are eligible the assistance can be at hand.
The registration point is the Tenterfield Showground, the place of the Evacuation Centre. I have been there and they are all ready, willing and waiting to help.
I also spoke with the Minister directly and he told me to ring him anytime if I need to.
If it is recommended you evacuate please take this seriously as we want you safe and sound. I know it can be challenging to do, but do all you can to stay safe.
There is accommodation available in Tenterfield and some people were accommodated last night.
I shall stay in touch and my mobile is 0418 664 001. Do not hesitate to contact me as I am here to support and represent you.”