Bushfires hit South Coast 'like a bomb', says MP Andrew Constance

Emotional Bega MP Andrew Constance speaking in state parliament this week about the horrific South Coast bushfires.
Emotional Bega MP Andrew Constance speaking in state parliament this week about the horrific South Coast bushfires.

Watching the South Coast bushfires explode like "bombs" in his Far South Coast electorate has changed Andrew Constance.

The Bega MP and Transport and Roads minister spoke to a bushfire condolence motion on the floor of state parliament, his voice sometimes choked with emotion and the pain still visible on his face.

Mr Constance described the pain of the events of January - where a number of fires "quite frankly turned into bombs when they hit" - as "traumatic".

"There is no doubt the fire activity that we have seen has been nothing short of horrendous, traumatic, frightening and unpredictable," he told a silent parliament chamber.

"It is traumatic. It is hard. It hurts.

"Loved ones have been lost. No community has been lost because of the people who make up those communities but jeez, it has been tough to live under fire threats like regional NSW has for months - not weeks, months."

On New Years Eve, the Clyde Mountain fire began rushing for Mr Constance's coastal home town of Malua Bay, tearing through Mogo and other small villages on the way.

He spent time housing down his house to protect it from what he thought would be nothing more than the odd spot fire.

But this fire was different.

"I took a late-minute decision to leave the house because I felt the radiant heat off the fire - I thought I was going to melt," he said.

"At that point I thought, 'holy hell, we are going to lose hundreds of people'."

Many lives were saved that day through the actions of firefighters and other volunteers - and Mr Constance managed to return to his own home and save it - but he said the community will be counting the cost for some time to come.

Mr Constance said the region's oyster, timber and tourism industries had been "absolutely belted", which will have an effect on people's jobs.

"We have a very highly casualised workforce," Mr Constance said.

"I am absolutely scared beyond belief about the impact on casual employees - they are the first to lose their jobs when those businesses are stretched."

He added that, while some coastal communities escaped the blazes, every single resident in his electorate had been evacuated at some point in the last two months.

While dealing with the ongoing trauma that has left him with "a blackened heart", Mr Constance said he drew solace from "the strength of community and the strength of people drawing together in a bond that will unify them for life".

Mr Constance said debates about what caused the fires were for another time, stating there was no need to play politics while people are grieving.

"We can argue about climate change and fuel loads til the cows come home, but are you really going to expend that degree of energy when we now need to come together and move forward?," he asked.

This story Bushfires hit South Coast 'like a bomb', says MP first appeared on Illawarra Mercury.