ON FRIDAY I had the pleasure of joining our general manager, directors and council's Community Partnerships and Recovery teams in welcoming the new Commissioner of Resilience NSW to Kempsey.
Comm Shane Fitzsimmons is the former leader of the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) and it was a privilege in the first month of him heading up the new agency to host Shane in our shire.
An inspiring leader who is articulate and understands community and all the levels of government, Comm Fitzsimmons was incredibly generous with his time.
He talked openly and frankly about the challenges we've had in securing suitable accommodation for bushfire affected families, he listened to our recommendations for lessons learned through the fire season and recognised the importance of flood level gauges and mapping.
He shared our frustrations at how difficult it's been to keep up with all the changes in available funding and application criteria.
As part of the day we met with RFS crews from Bellbrook, Lower Creek and Willawarrin.
Our amazing local heroes were able to share their stories and their ideas for preparedness, training and the equipment improvements they need.
Similarly, we heard the first-hand experience of Bellbrook by the principal of Bellbrook Public School, Alison Mitchell, and gained insight into the part the school played and the incredible heroism and love for community that Alison shares.
Council had the opportunity to outline its current Recovery Action Plan and talk about the improvements underway for the Willawarrin Showground precinct and Bellbrook Hall as well as the education programs for land regeneration and future emergency planning.
The Commissioner explained that a big area of focus for Resilience NSW is the mental and emotional impact that the fires, floods and now COVID 19 is having on NSW communities.
We have a long way to go and in some ways our recovery in the Kempsey Shire is a continual part of the rural life cycle between fires and floods.
But with the investment being made by government, the fact that council has dedicated staff focused on the recovery efforts and the support Comm Fitzsimmons and Resilience NSW has shown our area, I know we are on the right path.