NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian visited Nymboida on Monday for the first time since the catastrophic firestorm which destroyed 85 homes on November 8 last year.
It was part of a fleeting visit to three fire-ravaged communities in the region – Rappville, Nymboida and Nana Glen – to offer project grants and acknowledge the efforts of the Richmond, Clarence and Orara valley communities impacted by the black summer bushfires.
Ms Berejiklian presented NSW Government Community Service Awards to Georgia Foster-Eyles from Nymboida, Hayley Katzen from Ewingar, Alison Johnson from Idle Inn Cafe at Nana Glen, Rappville Primary School Principal Kathleen Collis and RFS volunteer Neil Burnett, also from Rappville.
“I was in a position to step up and help people as much as I can, mostly trying to supply information to people who needed it when they were in crisis,” Ms Foster Eyles said.
“The hardest thing has been reaching the people who need help the most. Even when funds or donations are available, finding those people who really need it has been the hardest, even for us community members.
“A lot of people won’t put their hand up, even if they really need support.”
The premier’s visit was a well-guarded secret. In fact Ms Foster Eyles had no idea she was coming, let alone about the award.
“Nobody gave me any heads up at all so it was a big surprise and slightly overwhelming, so I wish I could’ve been able to thank more people,” Ms Foster Eyles said.
“I just thought Chris Gulaptis was coming and they had something to announce.”
The premier’s visit was also an opportunity to present a united front in the strained relationship that is the NSW Liberal-National Coalition.
Clarence Valley Nationals MP Chris Gulaptis threatened to cross the floor over koala protection policy last month, but with that crisis now averted there was no sign of ill feeling at the Nymboida Community Hall.
I think the premier is doing an incredible job,” Mr Gulaptis said. “It is a really good government, but sometimes you just have to stand up for your own community first and that’s what I did with the koala SEPP.”
Together Mr Gulaptis and Ms Berejiklian announced a suite of grants, including $11,000 for a bus shelter at Nymboida, $30,000 for air conditioning and solar panels for the Ewingar Community Hall, $25,000 to resurface the Rappville tennis courts, $25,000 for the Nana Glen Community First Responders and $10,000 for a new fence and driveway at Nana Glen Preschool.
“The premier did say from the outset that she would not forget those communities that were so severely impacted by the bushfires, so it was terrific to see her come back to Nymboida, and to recognise the impact it had on Ewingar and Rappville,” Mr Gulaptis said.
“These communities are the heart and soul of New South Wales and we need to ensure they have a future. That’s what Gladys was here for.”