JIM WILSON, HOST: Fiona Phillips is the Federal Labor Member for Gilmore. Her seat covers an area along the coast from Kiama in the north to Tuross Heads in the South. Places like Bawley Point, Batemans Bay, Berry, Gerroa, Kiama, Mogo, Moruya, Nowra, Sussex Inlet and Ulladulla. Many of these places are also suffering from the devastation of the summer bushfires and Fiona Phillips joins me on the line.
FIONA PHILLIPS, MEMBER FOR GILMORE: Good afternoon.
WILSON: Fiona how much rain has fallen there?
PHILLIPS: Oh, well look, it’s different obviously in different areas - it’s just a massive deluge of rain over many, many days. We’ve seen three evacuation orders for the along Shoalhaven River near Nowra. We’ve also seen evacuation orders for Sussex Inlet and Moruya. It’s eased off in Moruya thankfully, but the real worry at the moment is the Shoalhaven River, around 5 o’clock this afternoon.
WILSON: So is that when you are expecting it to peak?
PHILLIPS: We certainly are going to be seeing the impacts of it then, obviously with the tide and things coming through, there’s an enormous amount of water. Obviously the Shoalhaven River is quite a large river and we are starting to see those impacts. And I think, even when the rain stops the issue is that water coming through. So we are expecting to see those impacts around 5 and obviously, into the next day as well.
WILSON: So we are expecting that around 5 o’clock this afternoon and what towns, what communities will be impacted?
PHILLIPS: Yeah, so the main town is Nowra and then you’ve got the little village of Terrara along there. We’ve got a lot of local farms – I grew up on a little farm there which is still there – I know there’s a lot of people shifting cattle you know and really trying to take their stock to safety as well. Obviously with the evacuation orders people have got out of there.
These really are uncertain times. But also, this is the first big flood that we’ve seen for a very long time. I’ve grown up in the area, seen a lot of floods, I’ve been evacuated back in 1974. So we’ve been seeing floods for a very long time, but this is the first big one again.
WILSON: Gee, the numbers in Nowra alone are extraordinary – had its wettest fortnight in 29 years with more than half a metre of rain – that’s a lot of water.
PHILLIPS: Oh yes, and I think the irony of it is that this is an area that so recently was in severe drought. That’s just hard to take, in terms of the drought and then obviously the bushfires, the ongoing bushfire recovery, the floods, COVID and now another flood. It’s just been an immensely horrific time for people on the South Coast!
But I tell you what I’ve never seen such a great bunch of people. So many volunteers and workers out. Look and people are, you know this is really difficult for everyone, but I think people are buoyed by the tremendous community spirit we have here. And also, I want to say thank you obviously to people who have helped. We’ve got people coming in from all over the state to help along the South Coast, so thank you to absolutely everyone that’s helping.
WILSON: Amazing stories of resilience. It’s been an extraordinary as I said 12 months, as you mentioned before the bushfires, you had drought, now with COVID and now with this. Just tell me with the bushfire victims, who I continue to read stories and I get told by people from the South Coast that they continue to struggle to get back on their feet, how they’ve been choked by red tape and green tape, what are they telling you?
PHILLIPS: Yeah look there’s lots of different things. I think the main thing that I’m definitely hearing at the moment is around, we need to be ready for the next bushfire season. I know we’re talking about floods now, but it is about disaster preparedness. The reality is that this has happened on the South Coast, but it could happen anywhere. So a lot of the community associations are talking about you know, how we can have better telecommunications, how we can have better power backups and things like that. They’re the sorts of things that many of these ‘one road in and one road out’ communities are looking at – how they can make it better before the next fire season.
WILSON: Fiona, we appreciate your time this afternoon and as I said we’ll be keeping a close on things this afternoon, in particular around the Shoalhaven River and Nowra which is expected to peak at around 5 o’clock. And again to anyone listening to the program on the South Coast our thoughts are with them, because as I said it’s been a hellish 12 months for those communities. We appreciate your time Fiona.
PHILLIPS: Thank you very much.
WILSON: That’s Fiona Phillips, the Federal Labor MP for Gilmore.