Bureaucratic obstacles to recovery must go

The raw numbers paint a grim picture of the damage done by the fire emergency across south-eastern Australia in terms of structures lost. But they tell only a part of the story, which we will see revealed as the NSW South Coast pivots from emergency into recovery mode.

The entire length of the South Coast has seen about a thousand homes lost and has taken a huge hit in terms of local economies.

Many businesses have suffered directly, some burnt to the ground. It's not only the businesses themselves that suffer but their employees as well, who have lost their jobs. That has a flow-on effect through entire economies.

Other businesses, even though their premises are still standing, have suffered through the loss of the peak holiday period, when so much of the annual turnover is made and banked against the quieter winter months.

Some have simply closed their doors because there have been no customers. Holiday-makers have either been unable to get to the coast or, if they did, found themselves caught up the mass evacuation that followed the New Year's Eve firestorm.

The reopening of the Kings Highway on Tuesday will make life a little easier for the Eurobodalla region. So, too, the RFS plea to holiday-makers to return to the south and far south coasts. But they alone will not repair the damaged local economies.

The sad fact is many holiday-makers have used up the leave set aside for the annual holiday and in all likelihood won't return until the Easter rush.

Small businesses have also been hit by ongoing power cuts, with much of their stock spoiled through lack of refrigeration.

Further south, entire industries are facing huge challenges, including at Eden where the timber mill is still smouldering, its workforce on hold.

Only sustained help from the NSW and federal governments will see the region get back on its feet, and even then the process will take some time.

Already, there are reports of red tape interfering with people's ability to access financial help offered by the federal government. When a business operator in Mogo, for instance, sought help from Centrelink, he was told by staff he wasn't eligible because the area had not been affected by the bushfire.

These bureaucratic obstacles need to be removed immediately so the recovery process can begin.