Donations help, hinder community recovering from fire

Laine Clark |

Donations have been pouring in for a Queensland region hit hard by a deadly bushfire, creating another problem for locals.

The Western Downs community, west of Brisbane, has been embraced by charities since a ferocious fire claimed a life, destroyed 58 homes and forced almost 300 people to evacuate.

Residents are grateful for all the donations as they start a recovery effort that may take years to complete.

However Western Downs Mayor Paul McVeigh said it had created a “vicious circle”.

Donations have impacted on spending at local businesses who employ a lot of the people trying to get back on their feet, he said.

“We do not knock charity by any means. People have been so generous,” Mr McVeigh told AAP.

“While it is great to have charities supplying things to the region, those donations impact on our businesses.

“And they are the employers of people living here so that has a flow on effect – it’s a bit of a vicious circle.”

Western Downs Regional Council Mayor Paul McVeigh
Mayor Paul McVeigh says locals are deeply grateful for the donations to bushfire victims.

Mr McVeigh encouraged people to send money via the likes of national non-profit organisation GIVIT which converts cash into coupons that can be spent in the community.

“It’s a hard one to talk about because we are grateful for the support,” he said.

“But if it can help our businesses in town that are employing the people who have been hurt, that is really important as well.

“You can see the impact on a house that has been hit by fire but there has also been a slow burn on our businesses.”

Mr McVeigh said affected local businesses would also benefit from new state-federal financial assistance announced on Friday.

Concessional loans up to $250,000 are available to re-establish operations.

There are also working capital concessional loans of up to $100,000 on offer for the region’s small businesses to help pay wages, creditors, rent or rates.

About 30 people are still in motels after some lost everything in the fire that destroyed about 25,000 hectares.

However the recovery effort is advanced with some able to return home while caravans have been provided at Tara showgrounds for those who can’t.

An old caravan park in Tara has also been redeveloped with intermediate housing.

“It’s a big job but we are a very resilient community,” Mr McVeigh said.

“As a community we will come back better.”

About 25 fires are still burning across Queensland with heatwave conditions forecast for a fourth straight day.

Worst hit on Friday was the northwest with temperatures reaching 42 degrees at Doomadgee and 41 at Mount Isa and Winton.

Emerald in the central highlands hit 40 degrees with heatwave conditions set for nine regions across the state’s inland on Friday.

However the Bureau of Meteorology said there would be a cool change from Saturday.

Severe thunderstorms with giant hail and strong winds are possible in southeast coastal areas as far north as Bundaberg on Friday.