For most of the year since last summer's bushfires, meetings about recovery funding for the North East had to be done over Zoom, with the key people in Canberra kept away by the border closure.
But for the first time since March, National Bushfire Recovery Agency's deputy coordinator Major General Andrew Hocking was back in the region this week.
He visited Corryong on Monday and Bright on Tuesday, saying it was good to meet people in person because it had been too hard to read feelings and emotion over Zoom.
"We've lost a sense of the soul of what's needed," he said.
Part of the NBRA's role is to help people with the bushfire recovery grants, which General Hocking said had to be a community-led process - completing projects requested by specific towns, rather than a one size fits all approach from the "good ideas fairy" in Canberra.
He said because 2020 has been a tough year, some of the deadlines to apply for bushfire grants would be extended and encouraged those who have done it hardest to take a break.
"It's been a big year and the community's got to give itself permission just to have a rest for three or four weeks. Check out of it, recheck in with family, process what has been a challenging year," he said.
"This is not going away, this is not something you have to do before Christmas.
"This takes years.
"We will go at the community's pace, trying to support the community's needs."
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General Hocking acknowledged the NBRA needed to make the recovery process easier on bushfire victims, rather than bureaucrats.
"There is a risk they will walk away from this because it's too hard and we are determined not to let that occur," he said.
"We've got to get some support to them, we've got to try to make things easier, we've got to give more time if it's needed.
"I'm hopeful that as we listen and adjust, that there won't be people who miss out."
He was joined in meetings this week by Indi MP Helen Haines who said ideas for bushfire recovery projects included improvements to town halls to use as refuge centres, including having solar panels for energy security, and constructing safer roads to enter and exit towns.
"What we're hearing loud and clear is there's been some fantastic community activity on the ground. We're at the point now where there's large grants rolling through and the application processes are at times confusing," Dr Haines said.
"There's never enough money for everyone to have everything they want, but there is very generous amounts of money around.
"The important thing is for people to feel they have an opportunity to contribute to that recovery."