Ian Watson's property after the fires (left). As part of an admittedly slow recovery process, Ian this week received a donation of a water tank from the Woolgoolga Lions Club (right).
Ian Watson's property after the fires (left). As part of an admittedly slow recovery process, Ian this week received a donation of a water tank from the Woolgoolga Lions Club (right).

‘Fifty years went up in smoke’: Recovery begins after fires

I LOST my home as well as my livelihood. Fifty years just went up in smoke."

Three months since the Liberation Trail bushfire obliterated his Nana Glen home and workshops, local artist Ian Watson is trying to get back onto his feet.

Mr Watson had lived on and raised his children at the Ellems Quarry Rd property over the last 30 years, which is where he also kept 300-tonnes of rosewood stumps and roots that he had collected from the Dorrigo Plateau over the course of half a century.

He used these for his artworks.

Having had no insurance and now struggling with limited access to the internet and poor mobile phone reception, Mr Watson admitted the recovery process, including applying for grants, hasn't been easy.

"You prepared for it but you never expected it. Even when packing things away in the trailer, you always had in the back of your mind that you're going to come back to it all," he said.

Mr Watson, who is also a former Rural Fire Service volunteer, has been staying at a friend's property since the fire.

"It's been a slow recovery process. Sometimes you go two steps forward and one step back.

"I intend to rebuild, but will be downsizing now. And the landscape needs restoring - it's pretty cooked."

Mr Watson said trees on the property that were over 200-years-old are now dead, showing no signs of regeneration.

Prior to the bushfires, he said he and his son had been wanting to undertake a slow-burn method of clearing the build up on the property, however at least six rare and endangered species of flora and fauna had been identified on the property.

Despite the hurdles, which includes a development application process to rebuild his home, Mr Watson has managed to find some positives in the aftermath of the fire.

Almost like a form of therapy, he's been creating new sculptures with the remnants of his home.

He will soon showcase his works at an exhibition at the Urunga Art Space dubbed Burnt.

"What's come out of the fire is, surprisingly, incredible.

"I had a lot of antiques, a lot of glass, and it had reached temperatures of between 1000-1200 degrees - enough to melt metal.

"A couple of galleries I approached told me it was too dark but I don't see it that way. It's a resurrection - It's 50 years of gathering, 30 years of living in that house, and this is all that is left. But at least I've still got something."

 

Ian Watson thanks Jean Vickery from the Woolgoolga Lions Club.
Ian Watson thanks Jean Vickery from the Woolgoolga Lions Club.

 

Another positive for Mr Watson in the aftermath of the fire has been the community support. Donations have started trickling through from organisations such as Red Cross, and this week he received a new water tank from the Woolgoolga Lions Club.

The Woolgoolga Lions have been assisted by the Orara Valley Lions Club, as well as from a BlazeAid donation, to provide a total of 22 new water tanks to those who had uninsured properties in Nana Glen and Nymboida that have since been destroyed in the bushfires.

"It's a sad situation up there," President of the Woolgoolga Lions Club, Jean Vickery said. "Ian had a beautiful spot by a big lake, with cedar trees all around. Now there is just nothing left.

"Another gentlemen who received a water tank hasn't even been back to visit his property, because it's too depressing."

Ms Vickery urged anyone who may be need assistance from the Lions to get in touch.

Woolgoolga Lions last year donated a total of $145,000 to charity.

To learn more email ­woolgoolga@lionsdistrict 201n1.org.au.



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