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The NSW Minister for Transport and Roads and Member for Bega, the Hon. Andrew Constance MP joins Andrew and Josh on the show this week to talk about the long recovery from the 2019/20 Black Summer bushfires on the NSW South Coast.

The threat of bushfires lingered for five weeks on the NSW South Coast before the reached Malua Bay. On New Years Eve 2019, the fire moved about 30-40km closer to the town on a 32 degree day with low humidity. It ripped through parts of Batemans Bay, demolishing houses and burning thousands of hectares of forested areas.

18 months later, Andrew and Josh speak with Andrew Constance about the recovery of his community and the continuing mental health challenges faced by many who experienced the bushfires. Listen in to hear about the challenges the community faced during the disaster and what brought them together, political leadership and the amazing work of local volunteers.


Voiceover 0:07
This is Me, Myself and Disaster – the show all about disasters with a human focus. From hurricanes to humanitarian issues. We journey across fault lines to explore trends in disaster preparedness, response and recovery and understand how our guests became involved in disasters. Over to you disaster brothers, Josh and Andrew.

Joshua McLaren 0:35
Hello, and welcome back for another episode of Me, Myself and D isaster, the show where we talk all things disaster with a human focus.

Andrew McCullough 0:43
Josh, we’ve talked a lot on the show about the black summer bushfires, they were a significant disaster that will remain in the memories of those affected forever. living through an event like that is not easy. Today on the show, we’re speaking to a community leader who came so close to losing his own house, and continues to work as part of the broader community recovery effort. We’re here recording live in Martin Place in Sydney, with the honorable Andrew Constance. He’s the New South Wales Minister for Transport and Roads and member for Bega. We’re going to talk about the ongoing bushfire recovery effort on the New South Wales South Coast, mental health, leadership during disasters, politics, and what we need to be doing today to prepare communities for the disasters of tomorrow. Let’s chat with Andrew Constance on Me, Myself and Disaster.

Joshua McLaren 1:34
Minister Andrew Constance, thanks for joining us on me, myself and disaster.

Andrew Constance 1:38
Thanks for having me, guys. And this is obviously incredibly important to so many people. So it’s, it’s great to be able to help out.

Joshua McLaren 1:47
I think that’s where we probably want to start today. You’ve got a really interesting story around disasters and how that affected your life. So I think it’d be really good if we could kind of set the scene today and take some of our listeners, obviously, a lot of we’ve got a lot of listeners from Australia who are very aware of what we went through in black summer, but also got some international people that listen to this podcast. So I thought be really good. If you could just take us back to New Year’s Eve 2019. set the scene for us what it was like the for yourself. What did you experience? What happened? What did that day bring for you?

Andrew Constance 2:22
Well, I mean, look to sort of, I guess, contextualize it better. The 26th of November was when our wildfires started. We had throughout the course of those five weeks before reached, where I live, just this ongoing threat of a very large wildfires burning north and south depending on which way the wind blew. Yep. And then on occasion, it would find its way to the ocean. And yeah, I’m talking about a ridge line of course being in essence, the the main escarpment. Yeah. And it you know, look, it burnt for the best part of five weeks before. It turns really nasty on New Year’s Eve. It took a run that day, maybe 3–40 km, I said first up at about 3am in the morning. And it was big and it was ugly. And now humidity in the air. The car gauge as I drive into where my in laws lived, hit about 33. And over the course next few hours, it took all its satellite imagery, which is on the Malua Bay Rural Fire Service website is just inexplicable. And to this moment, in around Malua Bay now we lost a lot of lives that day, but where I live, I don’t know how they were wasn’t 100s killed. And I I put it down to obviously the threat of the fire being there for five weeks beforehand and everyone being terrified and wondering what was going to happen.

Joshua McLaren 4:04

Andrew McCullough 4:05
It sounds like an incredibly tough experience for your community and for you personally. And Josh and I have been on the ground for a number of disasters most recently we went to Western Australia for Cyclone Seroja and hundreds of people have been displaced from their houses they’re these situations challenges but how do you overcome the stigma of asking for help and what can we do to influence positive change? Do you think?

Andrew Constance 4:27
Look I mnea in that type of situation i’s all in. The experience for some, me included is incredibly lonely because you your entire life guys before your eyes and you wonder, you know, you know you, you know, you’re on age, it’s not like just a flash where your life’s in danger. It’s in danger for the entire event. And when you’re in that scenario with hundreds of others, and in my case, I spent a lot of that day alone by myself. But when I was down the beach surf club. What I saw was just people coming together and drawing a strength out of each other, which to be honest with you, I don’t think you have. So it, it’s, you know, it’s one in all in. I wish the hell we just, you know, work out how the hell to get out of the way that he seems to be honest, if we see them in the future, I wouldn’t recommend putting a community or 1000s of people through that again, alternative to evacuate the entire area where the houses burned. Because, you know, the only thing that stopped it was the ocean. trackable waterborne was going to stop it. And I think, is it really worth losing in life? Probably not. in tech, definitely not. So, look for me. I saw an incredible humanity that day. You know, just young blokes and surf lifesaving gear, you know, quite literally carrying seniors on to the sand. People just protecting their kid their animals. And I think the thing about it is where we’re probably our inner strength is a lot stronger than we all think in those situations. And, you know, I think what we got to be able to do, I mean, yes, use technology as best we can. Because there’s no doubt the text message that went out at 6am led a lot of people to go to the beach even though they’re out in the open when the wall for our for our raw through malubay. And the worst thing about it was it didn’t come once it can twice because of country in the West. And then southerly hit it at about 11 o’clock. So it really it was, it was too fire fronts, no one. And in an education year, you can’t breathe. But what I saw was just people just making sure that was safe together. I do worry when you see you know, people you know, just by themselves left trying to save the house minutes. The end of the day. You know, when you see 1000 homes valued down the life of humanity. It’s everyone’s got to rebuild together. And that’s been part of it.

Andrew McCullough 7:09
How is the community going now and and how you personally going in your recovery from that bushfire?

Andrew Constance 7:14
I’ll be honest, I’m still saying psychologists for post-traumatic stress. So a lot of nights, we wake up at 3am. And you’re still thinking about that day, I want to get it out of my head. I’ve got mates who, one bloke in particular like he ended up 30 kms inland in a very deep sort of coastal range area. And he went up there by himself as an RFS volunteer, and he or many can’t sleep. So you’ve got those type of examples, and you’ve got traumatized teenagers and kids. And, you know, Australia doesn’t do trauma, well, we don’t do mental health well. And mental health support can come in various forms, it can come in the form of just even a community rally rally together. I mean, you know, and yesterday, I drive past my local area and local beach. And, you know, one of the things that was reformed after the fires was the local board riders club. And you know, all the kids are exposed to the fires and their parents, they’ve actually now running this sort of monthly surf comp. And that, you know, that’s a form. If you think about it, that’s a form of trauma support, it’s about coming together. Where we, we lost so much momentum because of COVID. I, we were starting to get our mojo back in terms of trying to rebuild the community spirit after such a devastating event. And COVID just got stripped of stripped us of volunteers stripped us of Blazeaid, stripped us of Disaster Relief Australia, all of these organizations who’ve just had all these volunteers turn up, they will have to go home. So yeah, it was it was shocking. And yeah, I do worry, because I think there has been a delayed response in terms of this. Because, you know, whenever someone might see a burn pile on a property or, you know, I know, people who just can’t even look inside a fireplace, without it just being a trigger. So yeah, we’re looking at the triggers for the years ahead. Yeah. The other big devastating thing for us, because a lot of the forest canopy was lost in the fires, what it’s done in terms of the vegetation, and the regrowth is quite profound. So we’ve now got the, I guess the, you know, the noxious weeds coming back, but the blackwattle has grown. It’s such a right like it’s double, double my height. Yeah. And that’s inside eight a month. Well, that stuff is oily, it’s nasty, and it’ll, it’ll dry out again, it’ll burn. So we’re gonna end up with some pretty ordinary sort of low level surface fires in his head because the stuffs come back. So mentally, everyone’s looking at this stuff just going holy hell. So I’m gonna be 40 or 50 years before we see a very big blaze again, it’ll be potentially, you know, five, seven, ten years, you know? Yeah. So, look, I think it’s, for me I mean, you’ve got to, you’ve got to give people hope. And you’ve got to make sure that there’s change. And at the moment, I’m wearing that, you know, change is slipping through our fingertips to the moment because everyone’s moved on. Bureaucracies move on, and governments move on. And, you know, some people will never get over what we saw.

Joshua McLaren 10:33
I think it’s a really interesting point around having those constant triggers, you know, every day you go take the kids to school, or, you know, drive down the shops, get the milk, having some of those things to trigger you. But I think, part of that conversation to start there, I got this common theme of community. And I know, it was a big thing for yourself afterwards, you know, we’re really big on that community front, you know, we need to raise awareness around what my community is going through. What has this fire done, I guess, for yourself in terms of your view of, you know, what, what, what does community mean to you now, in terms of disaster recovery? Like, what do you see the role of community in the future in the in this recovery space?

Andrew Constance 11:13
Some of the bravest people that day were people who weren’t necessarily involved in rescue organization or so community to me, when you’re facing such an event, it’s defined at a very different level. It’s not sort of run in the mill, you’re part of a community, you know, you get involved. In those circumstances, you don’t have an option yet, because you either buy, quite frankly, perish or survive. Yeah. And even with the mental health stuff, post fires, I mean, it is very much still about parachute survival. So it was an incredible unification. I was like unity and sort of survival and unity and recovery. Yeah. You know, we had neighbors who had spoken to 20 years of like, friends having arguments who, you know, ended up embracing each other. And I’ve got a couple of mates down at cobargo, who normally get on fight with greenies. And now everyone was satellite everyone’s getting on. So I mean, they, they all had to basically, you know, live on a showground together and get through it. So I think, in many ways it took, took the politics out of it took the issues out of it, it became very much about survival and recovering. You know, it’s, it’s made for a kind of place. That’s the, the upshot, I think community, to me is about kindness. And you know, what you put into a community, in those circumstances? a hell of a lot back. Yeah. So, you know, it wouldn’t matter if it was Raj and local chemist, and little by giving out free battlelands to kids who couldn’t breathe through it, and just, you know, people supporting each other to be able to get them before a counselor to deal with the trauma. There was a lot of that stuff go on. And to this day, I mean, as we sit here, I’m going to stop people living in shipping containers. And some of those more remote areas, people are doing it, you know pretty tough.

Andrew McCullough 13:17
When these big disasters happen, and it’s been the same in other bushfires in Victoria, there’s often that second disaster, people call when everyone tries to donate as much as I can well, meaning people want to help How do they come into sort of spontaneously volunteer or just give heaps of stuff? I’ve seen that a Western show with the mining industry recently. But how do you think to avoid that disaster? How do you think people outside the disaster area can best help somewhere like your area that’s been impacted by these bushfires.

Andrew Constance 13:42
Look there’s incredibly kind and generous people who want to assist and you can’t begrudge that. It was very obvious to me early on, that we needed the army to be able to coordinate the logistics around that kindness. So I insisted that the army and the council were trying to grapple with it, but it was better to just centralize at Mackay Park, near Batemans Bay and be over there, and the army were able to receive those goods and then get them to places, you know, that needed it. Because for some I was incredibly overwhelming. I mean, I know there’s examples where, you know, for instance, a quorum or their local, the locals and in particular, Veronica Abbott, who just became this incredible community champion, just you know, through through the local Hall was able to coordinate the supplies and the relief. But, you know, I think one thing that governments can do well in those circumstances make sure that with you know, we quite literally had semi trailer load after semi trailer load turn up, got to the point where is actually affecting small business in the local area it is to be able to get back on their feet. Yeah, yeah. So you gotta you got to be able to manage that. But you should never ever show any sign of anything but gratitude for that kindness because that, you know, that mattered. You know, we, we had iron, for instance, we didn’t have power for seven, eight days. The mobile phones were staffed because the towers melted. And so I was very isolating period. And then we also had the hallways cut off with the trees down all over them. So it I think out of that you’ve got to be able to better plan and mitigate against disasters by also thinking in advance of these disasters. How do you manage recovery? What can you do with the personnel that you have available? And how can you coordinate so that it’s easier on the community who are already going through enough without, you know, people having to go above and beyond? Yeah, we had we had fire brigades, we have fire brigades where have the guys lost their homes. Yeah. And, you know, it’s really hard to see.

Joshua McLaren 15:46
So shifting gears a little bit then. And I think we’re kind of going into this space. Now. You know, we talk a lot about after a bushfire but how do you know how do we rebuild the roads? And how do we put the infrastructure back in? But I think something that’s often forgotten about is the people. And I think that same those same for black summer and it’s something that I think is becoming more of a first thought about people rather than infrastructure, but for yourself, in your experience, what do you think we could do better in that space? How can we help people? How can we think about people first in recovery? Do you have any experiences from from what you’ve seen and what you’ve gone through?

Andrew Constance 16:22
Yeah, I mean New Year’s Eve just gone. This year, though. Local surf club just got everyone back together again. You know for the for the week or so after the Malua Bay event, surf club, called loving me, and they put on you know, bacon, egg rolls and a cup of coffee. People who lost everything were just able to gather together. Yeah, 12 months old, they put on some live music to the bacon and egg rolls. And it was quite a healing thing. So I’m going to put into thoughts about healing. Otherwise, next time we see flames on a TV set. Or we get to experience what’s coming from the region seeing smoke and fire again, it’s gonna be a mess. Yeah. You know, people won’t, you know, in some circumstances, you can push someone to a limit, you know, an absolute point whether they will consider potentially self harming or worse suiciding. Yeah, with, you’ve also got those who can be traumatized and go through incredible suffering. And I think we’ve got to plan to that we’re going to be thinking in advance of that, you know, when I, I get so Excuse My French ‘pissed off’ when I see, you know, insurance company ads with fires belong in the background, or TV ads or anything else, because they should be able to just turn the TV on and not see some insurer trying to push a product. Yeah. And have that trigger. Because that’s what happens is like until you go through it and experience it, then you don’t actually understand what can go through someone’s mind. Yeah. So you know, you can see what’s going to happen, like, we’ll we’ll go through to the next round. And then, of course, it’ll be back on again. Yeah. And that’s where I think you got to plan ahead for that was too many people have been hurt from this event. It’s people hurt in the tathra fires who you know, only need to get a whiff of smoke, and it just brings up all the memories of it.

Joshua McLaren 18:27
I think this is the really interesting thing. I think, as we I don’t know what your thoughts on this are. But I think as we start to see these compounding and cascading events, you know, we’re often saying people, you know, thrust back into a response phase, who are still going through that recovery phase. And I think that’s going to be the really interesting thing for some of our communities, but especially the black summer, because it was such a big effect on New South Wales, you got such a large amount of people who were affected by that, you know, what does that actually look like? Does that actually change how we respond to future disasters? Or, you know, a lot of the conversations engine I’ve been having does actually change how you warn and communicate with people during future disasters, understanding there might be, you know, triggers or PTSD issues that might actually, you know, where we’d normally go send out an emergency alert, and we get X amount of percentage agreeing with that message and taking action, what we actually see changing that, is there any, you know, how can we actually do that long term recovery better? You got some thoughts about that? Like, we’ve got a lot of people who listened to this podcast, who work for RFS and do those type of things? What do they need to be thinking about next time we go into a disaster to help people like your community?

Andrew Constance 19:33
Look, I think I think mental health is everybody’s responsibility to be honest. Because you’re not going to ever have enough counselors or enough RFS brigade captains or local community nurses or doctors or you know, like, it’s got to be something we all get through it together. Country communities can do it well, but I think the awareness of there’s no degree of bravado which can shelter anyone against this stuff, doesn’t matter how tough you think you are. So, my sense out of it is, yeah, we’re gonna be all having the honest discussion about how we want to achieve it. Yeah. You know, I, my observation is sometimes it’s the simple things that can work, like getting a pool table into a hall at Naragunda, you know, so that they can get together on a Friday night and just look out for each other. They don’t even need to sit there and talk about the fire. So just, you know, just seeing a face. Yeah. So I think there’s a lot of, you know, people respond differently to pressures. But I think we’ve all got to be aware of it. Yeah. Fires will come again, floods will come again. Yeah. But I do think there’s a, there’s definitely a, you know, there’s a very real need for us to get better at it. And I think national and state and local government has an obligation to provide that safety net, I think we can’t I think the mental health situation is so dire and hopeless. And but that means you’ve got to be able to broaden it out. So that it’s not just about a health system. It’s, it’s a whole of community effort. And, you know, that means every community leader has a role to play in terms of making sure the well being and the community strong.

Joshua McLaren 21:19
Yeah. I think that probably leads really nicely into into this next conversation. You’ve always had a lot of leadership roles in your career. And if my facts serve me, right, you were the youngest member of parliament, when elected in 2003.

Andrew Constance 21:33
Don’t know what I was thinking.

Joshua McLaren 21:36
But I guess people think of disasters as it’s very cut and dry. situation, people come in, people go out, you know, people come in with their fire trucks or SES comes in does what they need to do, and then move out and and often forget, around the aftermath that’s, that’s left. And I think we can all agree that disasters are inherently political. And it’s this real nexus between politics, people, community and how those all come into play. So how do you how do you see emergency service members or people work in disasters? How can we better support politicians in these in this in this space? And also, how can politicians do you think better service the disaster sector?

Andrew Constance 22:17
I think your question’s wrong. I think it’s a bit about how can we support our volunteers? on with the RFS? I mean there’s been such enormous pressure after this event. Yeah, the pressure on during it, but afterwards, in quite literally see, you only need to look someone in the eyes to know what people saw. And I, you know, I think that in terms of the political system, and when I said at the time I was broken, because I’m so angry about the lack of empathy. Yeah. I’m going to everyone’s doing the best to show they care. But care can come in different forms. So, you know, I think there is a real need for the empathy to understand the human need in those types of situations. You know, I think people get it, I think, you know, political leadership gets it, I think the media get it. But sometimes, it’s just forgotten. And that can really upset people. You know, we had such traumatized communities that, quite literally, they were worried about where their next bottle of water was coming from. Yeah. Before they were worried about, you know, ultimately, the pressures that can be brought to bear in terms of politics. Which is why I felt at the time, we couldn’t really embark on a massive big debate about land clearing and land management practices, or climate change or those types of things. Because community when they’re traumatized, it’s not what matters, it’s, it’s about surviving. The last thing people are going to want to do is participate in some big debate about hazard reduction burning or climate change. It’s so we’ve got to be more sensitive to that there’s a time and place for those types of discussions or those debates. Absolutely. So I think that’s where the criticism in relation politics comes into it. It’s it’s in the timing and the empathy around what do you need to do? We want to have those debates and discussions don’t get me wrong, but they they want to have them in a very time sensitive way.

Andrew McCullough 24:38
in terms of the bushfires, do you think that’s changed your leadership style as a politician? And do you think the way you take your role is changed as a result of your experience last year?

Andrew Constance 24:48
Oh forget being a politician, it’s just changed me. Seriously? Yeah. It Yeah, I want to go and have an argument with with someone or whatever, but And you know, the captain’s roster? Yeah, I mean, it’s it’s added to enormous pressures and at a personal level within you know, you’re in some ways you find your identity when you’re in that situation, and then it can be lost again, because of the political process. I, I do think that you’ve, you’ve got a Yeah, it just changes you forever. does. And, you know, I look, I think, like, the whole experience seems like a decade ago, but it really isn’t. So there’s this this surreal nature about it. But yeah, I’m struggling, or I’m really struggling in the moment, because when I, you know, when I go home, I’m gonna look at black stumps still. You know, I’ve got to look at blocks, which had homes with it, there’s one guy who’s, obviously I mean, he’s still working on what he’s at, he’s doing but the burnt structure of his place is still standing there, you look at a news guy, he’s, you know, he is doing it really tough. So, you know, people lose so much in these types of events, because I lose all the tangible memories. I’ve always had belongings to lose everything. But you know, people people take it on and rebuild for 80% of people. It’s, it’s, it’s a reasonably okay process. But for others, it’s, you know, years and years and years of indecision can be hard.

Andrew McCullough 26:38
Do you think it’s possible to prepare politicians, I mean, as a local MP, this is going to happen, at times depend on where you live, and and we represent. But the thing is, where we can better prepare politicians for this sort of experience as a community leader, and what, like how to operate in a disaster, really.

Andrew Constance 26:55
I’ve seen some pretty crooked things my time, 20 years in Parliament. And there’s no degree of preparation in that sense. But I do think, in those circumstances, I mean, leadership, something can be taught. Yeah, if you experienced that, and you’re saying, those of you care about those who support you and your community go through it. Like it, it just happens naturally. So I, you know, that I think, in terms of politicians, so I’m going if, if they’re mindful of putting themselves in the shoes of those other in front of them, that’s probably the best thing I can do in that circumstances. Doesn’t matter your political persuasion? I mean, this is about your humanity. It’s, it’s got nothing to do with politics. So yeah, look, I think the I think the political process in Australia works overwhelmingly really well. But we’ve got to get away from these pressures about, you know, politicians having to turn up and wave the flag and all those types of things. At the end of the day, I said everyone be focused on making sure the logistics is are aligned. Particularly when people are isolated and cut off for weeks on end. And we just experienced abuse global. That was an amazing major global event. The largest wildfire in the world’s history, that we are aware of more than half million hectares of state burn. Yeah. So yeah, look, I think, you know, I, you know, saw, I mean, for instance, Gladys was amazing. You know, to have Gladys Berejiklian, in a fire truck The next day, just embracing people was amazing. And, I mean, she said to me that morning, when she arrived, we’re gonna do whatever, we need to get out of this. And she was right. And we did, but we’re gonna be very mindful just even, you know, they’re still trying to issue bushfire grants, like I 18 months on it’s like, bloody hell, you know, people are moving on. Yes, we do need the support, we do need the stimulus, we need the jobs and people are affected and people lost a lot. So we just got to be a little bit more sensitive that God is always critical at the time because again, you know, they, they just, you know, two, three months into it, people were still getting support. And I, you know, there was such generosity. I had just the way that it was managed, from the some of the leaders in that sector, like it was just no sensitivity to what was really happening within the community. I turned out to have a a one single sort of natural disaster relief fund and just put a couple of locals in charge of, hey, you might spend the money because you’ll get better bang for Back in terms of outcome, that’s an idea. Yeah, it’s logical, isn’t it? People who actually live in in that in the disaster zone, knowing what’s needed. And it wouldn’t matter if was a, you know, a case of a generator being attached to a show ground or you know, just some cash flow support for small business.

Joshua McLaren 30:21
Coming back to I guess that political side, how did you navigate those waters? Cuz I guess you yourself had a really profound experience. But you know, that team you’re trying to work with has obviously not gone through that same experience. Was that hard was that…

Andrew Constance 30:37
They were just lucky the mobile phone tower had melted. Yeah. I mean, that was one conversation I had with the head of one of our energy companies. And it was 11 o’clock on the Saturday night after the fire had ripped through on the Tuesday. And what I saw were in our community library with a whole bunch of residents from an aged care and retirement village, sleeping and chairs in 30 plus degree heat. And those people hadn’t even been able to bring a generator down to it, an evacuation center, which was holding 3000 people, for goodness sake. I was so angry. And unfortunately, him the mobile phone did work in the center of batemans Bay at that stage. And I mean, I ripped in i got i didn’t hold back, because what I saw on some of the photos on my phone, was an absolute national embarrassment from that later. And it really annoyed me to think that there was generators sitting at Naira, and it was one semi trailer, able to bring it in and electrician woke it up. And the RFS could have made sure those trees were another way to get that truck through. I mean, for God’s sake, you know, so it wasn’t perfect, in a lot of lessons for next door. And that’s why we’re gonna make sure we captured. All of this has to be an honest discussion. Yeah. But I think you got to call it out. It is. And I don’t think people really appreciate the partisan politics at that stage at that time.

Joshua McLaren 32:12
So for the future, then if you had to say like, what are those three things that you want people to take away from your experience in terms of recovery, the experience of what you went through, you had to distill it down to three things. You know, what would those things that what do you want people to leave this episode going? You know what, we can make a difference here? Or we can actually affect that? What do you want people to hear out of your learning?

Andrew Constance 32:37
Next time get the hell out of the way? Yeah. Don’t don’t think you can take this one. You can’t say, the very nature of that black summer for? You know, let’s think about it. The only thing that stopped it was the ocean. Every containment line got busted. Of course, there’s not enough fire trucks. I mean, most villages have, at best two, three trucks. Yeah. Making sure we’ve got incredibly important safe places for people to go and then be supported potentially, for a couple of weeks afterwards, to think logically through that. And thirdly, people are right to expect change, you know, the policies, settings, and the approach and the attitude that we take towards these disasters. People want change out of this. Yeah. And they’re right, as expected. So because we’ve had such a large amount of bush land burn, it’s all going to go back and pretty much the same, right? Our techniques, in terms of managing that hazard into the future is going to be very different. Because Yeah, the growth come back at the same time. So patchwork burning isn’t necessarily going to work, you can sort of have, you know, climate change in the background, and think that, you know, you have to have, you know, how many years cycle in terms of managing that bush land, and we can’t just sort of have it through the prism of, you know, the National Parks and Wildlife success rubbish, like, what I saw in terms of capital reserves in the way that which crown land reserve capital reserves, you know, even state forest land, the way that some of that country burned, I guess, even in low pi, like this council reserves, which I know the committee would get in and manage. But they’ve been told no, no, no, you can’t do that. Well, you know, we lost homes, because, you know, there was there was too much vegetation growth, right, near properties. So we had to sort of look at for land managers in New South Wales, and think if that’s going to continue to serve as well, when these types of events happen and why. So, yeah, look, I think there’s, there’s some key things in terms of change. So just to summarize that point, you know, people changing their attitude and getting out of the way of these things. Secondly, making sure that we’ve got safe places which is equipped to cater for 1000s of people, not hundreds. And thirdly, Just making sure that there is appropriate change in terms of overall public policy.

Joshua McLaren 35:05
And I think that is part of the discussion actually, I really interesting guest on a couple episodes back a lot. Ilan Kelman, who’s a really prominent researcher in this space, one of the leading researchers, and talking about disasters are a choice. And I think that’s what you’re summing up there is that we need to make the right choices beforehand to make sure we can get through these things. So you know, maybe we need to rethink around where we’re developing, or where we’re putting people or where we’re putting vulnerable individuals and have this bigger conversation around risk. So that when we go into the future, you know, we’re thinking about these things. We’re planning for things rather than, you know, now, where we’re at now trying to kind of, you know, we’re trying to catch up to ourselves.

Andrew Constance 35:41
Yeah, I think that’s right. Absolutely.

Andrew McCullough 35:44
One final question to cap this off. What does the community look like today in in Batemans Bay and the South Coast? And and what’s next for Andrew Constance?

Andrew Constance 35:56
Second part of that question, who knows? First part, look, you know, it’s a, it’s a better place. You know, and that’s because people were called on in a way that they’d never experienced in their lives before. And they, they found within themselves a strength, which they didn’t think they had. So, you know, out of it, just an incredible kindness. And, you know, people are going out of their way to, to help each other so that, you know, you know, there is no doubt the way in which you say that love and kindness every day, it’s it’s pretty awesome. And that’ll, that’ll continue. So, I think that’s the key point is, is that people were unified and that sort of survival period, but they’re certainly unified and moving forward.

Andrew McCullough 36:54
Yeah. Well, we certainly hope that positive change continues and that people continue to help each other and the community becomes more resilient, better prepared for disasters in the future. We’ve really enjoyed chatting with you today, Minister and wishing you and the community all the best for the continued recovery from those bushfires. We’ve shared a couple of pictures, you can check those out on our website at memyselfdisaster.com. Andrew Constance, thanks for joining us on Me, Myself and Disaster.

Andrew Constance 37:18
I’ll make sure you get that satellite image because it’s a cracker. I’ll get down below.

Andrew McCullough 37:22
That’d be good.

Andrew Constance 37:22
All right.

Andrew McCullough 37:23
Thanks heaps,

Andrew Constance 37:23
Thanks for having us.

Joshua McLaren 37:24

That’s all we have time for on today’s show. Join us again next time as we talk to more guests from across the world about their experiences during disasters. We’ll catch you then.

Voiceover 37:40
Thanks for listening to Me, Myself and Disaster. Subscribe today at memyselfdisaster.com. Learn more about disasters and follow our blog at disasterbros.com

Andrew Constance

The Hon. Andrew Constance MP is the NSW Minister for Transport and Roads, and the Member for Bega.