Fire clean-up starts to gain momentum

Bulldozers have taken over the streets of Yellow Rock and Winmalee as the bushfire clean-up gathers pace.

By late last week, 77 blocks had been cleared. Crews from NRMA Insurance, Suncorp and Allianz are working seven days a week removing debris.

Blue Mountains MP, Roza Sage, who door-knocked some of the affected streets on Thursday with Finance and Services Minister Andrew Constance, was pleased at the progress made.

“The residents have made clear that they want this clearing to happen as quickly as possible and I cannot express how satisfying it is to see and hear the heavy machinery on the ground,” said Mrs Sage. 

The NSW Government had been widely criticised for its slow response to the clean-up as it sought to negotiate individually with the three big insurance companies, but since Mr Constance was appointed to oversee the work, much has been done.

“The clean-up operation is progressing well, but we know the road to recovery will be a long one for residents,” Mr Constance said. “The NSW Government, in partnership with insurers, is committed to ensuring the clean-up is done as quickly as possible, so residents can get on with rebuilding their homes.”

Mrs Sage said there would “always be challenges in responding to a disaster of this scale and there is little doubt there are lessons to be learned from these terrible bushfires. Most important now is that our focus remains on what needs to be done next to help affected residents and the wider community move on with their lives.”

Mr Constance and Mrs Sage watched with Emma Parade resident Michael Magennis at Winmalee as the remains of his 10-year-old dream home were cleared.  

Mr Magennis said the clean-up would allow his family to move on, although in a sense it was almost too soon as they had still been fossicking in the rubble to see if anything could be salvaged.

“My wife was here on Sunday night. She said it’s the last time we can look at what we had,” he said.

They hope to rebuild on site but Mr Magennis was finding it difficult to get quotes.

Block clearing in the Upper Mountains is due to commence within the next two weeks, Mr Constance said.

Bushfire Recovery co-ordinator Phil Koperberg said he was happy with progress so far. 

“We were looking at 100 blocks being done by December 23 but we’re upping that now to 130 and I’m still optimistic that we will finish the job by the end of January, which is way ahead of schedule.”

The only delays may be due to owners taking summer holidays because most want to be around when their site is cleared.

Mr Koperberg said he was grateful to the owners of the Kemps Creek waste facility who had agreed to remain open last weekend to allow demolition crews to dump rubble.

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