All that remains standing of Jim and Ros McKinnon’s home in 40 Buena Vista Road, Winmalee, is the carport slab and a dirty pool. The rebuild is still two months away, but for Mr McKinnon, one of his biggest recent concerns, as Springwood RSL Sub-Branch president, was replacing the branch’s New Zealand flag in time for this year’s Anzac Day.
“The flag was at my house, in the library, along with some other RSL belongings,” he said. “It all went up in four or five minutes.”
When the New Zealand consul-general Martin Welsh heard about the loss he was keen to tour the fire-affected area and, importantly, replace the Kiwi emblem.
“It just seemed the right thing to do,” Mr Welsh said during his visit on March 19. “I didn’t want to put the flag in the post, I wanted to come out personally and hand it back to the RSL and show our support for Springwood on their losses.”
“Between our earthquakes and your fires, we’ve seen a fair bit of adversity but, as always, you see the best of human nature, you find out who your friends are and it’s when as a community you pull together.”
The consul-general will have several ceremonies of his own to attend on Anzac Day with an estimated 30,000 visitors expected to gather at Sydney’s Martin Place for the 4am dawn service and the three other services later in the day.
It will be the first time ever that uniformed New Zealand defence personnel will be part of a combined catafalque party, to raise the flag and guard the memorial alongside Australian soldiers, in a bid by the NSW government “to put the NZ back into Anzac”, he said.
“It’s a bit of a dress rehearsal for next year’s centenary,” he said, adding that on the day he would be laying a wreath with Governor Bashir. While Mr Welsh will be unable to be in the Mountains, he will spare a moment for Springwood.
“Especially having made this visit today, I will,” he said.
The Springwood RSL Branch hopes to present RSL plaques on the day to emergency service personnel who worked tirelessly during the October bushfires.
And Mr McKinnon, who is now living in “a friend of a friend’s garage in Valley Heights”, is taking no chances with the replacement flag. “This one will be under lock and key at the [Springwood Sports] club,” he said.