Tourists have returned to Tathra after last month’s bushfires destroyed more than 60 homes.Tourists have flocked back to the NSW south coast town of Tathra weeks after a massive bushfire reduced dozens of homes to ash.
The small community, outside Bega, confronted a firestorm on March 18 which destroyed more than 60 homes as well as 30 caravans and cabins.
Hundreds of residents face months or years of displacement as their destroyed properties are cleared of asbestos, assessed by insurance companies and – hopefully – rebuilt.
But many quickly identified tourism would be critical to getting the town, on the whole, back on its feet.
Bega Valley Shire Council, in a message posted online, said tourism is a major economic driver for the region and would be crucial for local restaurants, shops and, ultimately, families.
Council encouraged holidaymakers to not cancel travel plans to Tathra, adding “the closer to normal the community gets after a disaster like this, the better we all feel”.
“People understand Tathra is open for business and it’s pleasing to see people heeding our message,” Bega Valley Shire Mayor Kristy McBain told AAP on Monday.
Ms McBain said more than 50 per cent of local businesses were geared toward hospitality and tourism – and people from across the region were visiting the town to pour money back in.
“There is a long road ahead but I am taken aback by the support of people from near and far,” she said.
“And I’m astounded by the resilience people have shown just wanting to get on with things and move on.”
Preliminary investigations have pointed to power lines as the suspected origin of the blaze but two inquiries hope to establish the exact cause.
Questions also linger about the co-operation between the RFS and Fire and Rescue NSW after the former refused help from the urban brigade during the fire.
About 30 per cent of the properties destroyed in the fire are believed to contain asbestos, Ms McBain said.
A $10 million grant from the NSW Government will help hasten that cleanup effort but there is still no firm schedule for rebuilding.
“It’s not a quick fix,” Ms McBain said.
“We’ll be working the next 18 months to two years to make sure that people have been able to deal with their issues – rebuilding their properties and restoration of bushland areas.”