LIKE so many things, our shire's journey to recovery has been interrupted in countless ways by coronavirus.
Last week I joined council's general manager, Craig Milburn, in a tour around the Upper Macleay. It was a trip we had planned to take in March, to catch up with up-river farmers and families as well as the Thungutti Mission.
For me, it is vital to keep in touch with the human faces and tales as we continue with the enormous scale of the work of recovery.
It was so good to talk to these amazing people and to see how they have been faring after the fires and during shutdown. While of course there were many tough stories of hard experiences, without exception the people we spoke to were thought-provoking and inspiring.
While we covered a huge range of subjects, a key theme was the natural environment - including fuel loads, the management of tropical soda apple and how the pastures have come back after the fire and January rain.
There was an array of other subjects discussed, including the ongoing problem of the condition of Armidale Rd and the Saleyards, including how important the facility is as a stock refuge, and also the Bellbrook Tip and the important part it plays for the up-river community.
It was also great to talk about the tourism opportunities that the hinterland holds.
I also appreciated the opportunity to get to the Thungutti Mission. The mission was evacuated during the fires and many of the community spent time in the Showground Evacuation Centre.
Having seen and spoken to them there it was important to hear how they are getting on nine months later. It was also a good opportunity to meet with the chair Dave Tolby and the new CEO Arthur Bain and listen to their exciting plans for the coming year.
It was a big day. A day of problems faced, solved and still being worked on. And a day of looking ahead with both optimism and resilience.
Everyone was aware we are moving towards the fire season again and thinking about the preparation for that.
I would like to thank everyone we met with for their time and insight into what things are working, and what can be done better.