Jingellic farmers devastated by bushfires have been left ineligible for disaster funding that has been approved for their neighbours, and businesses in Victoria that did not sustain physical fire damage.
The Green Valley, Talmalmo fire started in the Greater Hume local government area near Jingellic and has grown to 208,275 hectares in size spanning NSW and Victoria.
It also crossed into the Snowy Valleys Council area which was also hit by the Dunns Road fire.
But while Snowy Valleys was made eligible for 'category c' funding under the Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements on January 3, Greater Hume is still seeking the same allocation.
It opens up a community recovery fund that in NSW, includes up to $75,000 for farmers and small businesses.
So farmers like Peter Hoodless can not yet apply for that money, despite his neighbour - who is half a kilometre down the road in Snowy Valleys - being eligible.
"We lost all our farm, our wool shed, hay shed and 700 bales of hay; it burnt the whole lot," he said.
"Some people lost 350 head of cattle on one property.
"We live in Greater Hume so we're getting no assistance. Snowy Valleys had a big hit and Greater Hume is just down the road.
"But the fire was the same on both sides.
"We can only hope [it's approved].
"Justin Clancy and Sussan Ley have been fantastic and so have Greater Hume Council."
Even the shires of Indigo, Wodonga and Wangaratta have been made eligible for funding under category c arrangements to deal with the knock-on effects of fires in surrounding areas.
Greater Hume management staff have been seeking to get access to the funding since the beginning of January and acting general manager David Smith told a meeting at Jingellic on Wednesday night said it was a frustrating anomaly.
"We're working extraordinarily hard to get Greater Hume listed to category C so it's equal across the local government boundaries," he said.
"The fire didn't stop at the boundary, it's one event, and that's the way we're looking at it."
Albury MP Justin Clancy attended the meeting and apologised for the delay, adding he expected a result "very shortly".
Unlike council areas like Snowy Valleys and Towong, only the south-eastern corner of Greater Hume was fire-affected, but about 300 square kilometres of land - an area the size of Albury's LGA - was burnt.
Six dwellings and stock were destroyed with assessments ongoing.
Mr Smith said the process to access funding - which involves a state government request to the federal government - was confusing and ultimately residents needed immediate access to money.
"We haven't suffered the level of damage most other councils have - we haven't lost critical community infrastructure - whether we as a council get funding to me is neither here nor there, we're asking that our residents get access to emergency grants," he said.
The issue has been raised on a Facebook page title 'Darwin Supports RFS Jingellic Fires' linking to a gofundme page started by Jingellic local Joshua Jeffries that has so far raised $15,000.
On the same day of the community meeting, Greater Hume was included for the Australia Government Disaster Recovery Payment, which provides one-off financial assistance to eligible Australians adversely affected by the bushfires.
Eligible adults can receive $1000 and children $400, with the Department of Human Services co-ordinating those payments.
Greater Hume was already among 46 LGAs eligible for Disaster Recovery Allowance, which provides fortnightly income payments for up to 13 weeks.
Both payments are separate to the state-and-federal-funded NDRRA that can be scaled up to categories C and D, according to the severity of the event.
In Victoria, a Community Recovery Fund has been activated for 15 local government areas including Indigo, Wangaratta and Wodonga, with Towong Council receiving a number of funding streams to deal with the significant damage there.
The Border Mail understands the NSW government has not requested a category c funding activation from the federal government yet, but is "actively considering" doing so.
Long road to recovery
Even when the funding for farmers is made available in the Greater Hume Shire, the grants will go nowhere near covering the damage many have sustained, Mr Hoodless said.
"We've probably had half-a-million dollars in damage or more, it's hard to estimate," he said.
"If we don't get a good Autumn break, we're in big trouble.
Mr Hoodless and his wife Mary are involved in a local community bushfire recovery committee, which with the two Southern NSW councils ran the community event on Wednesday.
"We started a couple weeks ago, it's made up of locals basically, to work on recovery going forward - we've just had the one meeting," he said.
"You have Talmalmo, Lankeys Creek, Ournie and Jingellic bushfire brigades. That's the recovery - we have representatives from each brigade and people have different responsibilities.
"People are still assessing, everything's happened at once, you have to take it steady.
"It's great, but sometimes a bit overwhelming."
Mr Hoodless is part of the Jingellic RFS but was not able to fight fire due to a recent knee construction - though he worked on his own property.
"Our Captain has been fantastic and the Jingellic Brigade has been right in the middle, 24-hours a day," he said.
"We've always got to remember, somebody got killed two kilometres down the road.
"We got burnt out, but we're safe."
Nearly 300 people gathered at the Jingellic showgrounds, many of whom had attended firefighter Samuel McPaul's funeral, heard it will be a long, steady recovery that will span years.
To provide practical advice, representatives from both DHS and Service NSW, which is a contact point for support, attended Wednesday's meeting.
Melbourne-based Civilex also had people there, who will donate machinery to assist the clean-up effort, and Blaze Aid was on the ground to register people who need help.
Australian Defence Force sergeants Marcus Chisholm and Brad Palmer were talking to people about the work their Joint Task Force 1110 will be doing.
"We've had a medical team based in Tumbarumba given the hospital's closed, so they have a regular hospital service in Tumut and an ADF medical team in Tumbarumba," Sergeant Palmer said.
"We've been heavily involved in the transportation of fodder on behalf of Local Land Services, non-potable stock water for animals, and also doing a lot of work clearing main roads and private roads.
"Now we're moving into helping individuals with clearing fence lines so organisations doing great work like Blaze Aid can come through and put fences up.
"The guys are hoping to set up very shortly here in Jingellic."
The main purpose of the community barbecue was to bring people together as efforts move into clean-up and recovery.
Mrs Hoodless said the community had received "an enormous amount of offers of donations".
"We'll always remember the generosity offered," she said.
Contacts for those needing assistance include:
Residents have been without service for three weeks as the Telstra tower was destroyed by fire.
Regional General Manager Loretta Willaton said technicians had been to assess the Jingellic site as soon as it was safe and were back there on Thursday.
"The good news for the community is that we've been able to fast-track the rebuild program for this site - we're hopeful it'll be weeks - and not months - to get this site back online," she said.
"We're working as quickly as we can to get this site rebuilt and the proof is here - we've already moved a new hut into place and our riggers will be getting to work on the tower.
"In the immediate aftermath of the emergency, we look at what interim options are available and best suited to get services back up and running - even temporarily.
IN OTHER NEWS:
"Walwa had mains power restored before Jingellic - so the call was made to move a SatCOW into Walwa to provide some connectivity back into the community.
"We're just as disappointed as the rest of the community that this site was destroyed by fire, but we're working to get it back up and running as quickly as possible."