Sunday, 19 January 2020

"They want people to go and visit those areas"

the person at the other end of the phone told me, "Isn't it too early for that?"
    "I imagine it depends on where exactly they think people will want to go and whether they can control that," I told her.
We were talking about the request, almost the demand, for people to start visiting the areas that have been affected by the fires. The outside page of this morning's newspaper is bright red with the same demand.
It does bother me more than a little. If people are going to go simply because they hope they can gawk at the damage then they shouldn't be going. First of all nobody needs to see that sort of damage. It is the stuff of nightmares. Second though is the fact that those places will, rightly, be largely inaccessible. You would not be able to see much of it. 
Large areas of the burnt out area of the hills behind us are going to take years to recover. The burnt out areas of Kangaroo Island will take more than a generation to recover. I won't see it in my life time and it may niece and nephews will be much older than I am now before it looks anything like it once did - if it ever does. The same is true of other areas where there has been severe and widespread fire damage.
At the moment it is all still in the news. Will it be the same in six months time? No, of course it won't. People won't necessarily have forgotten but too many people will assume that "things are getting back to normal". If they go and visit then they won't be expecting to see the devastation - but it will still be there.  
Yes of course places that were not burnt out will still be open for business and will need support but that is not the end of the story. They may not be able to offer the same level of service they did before the fires. People will need to understand that. People will need to understand that restrictions may be placed on their activities. 
Ms W and her father went to Kangaroo Island a couple of years ago. It was a good holiday for both of them. Ms W is a child who prefers her own company and was more than happy to read, draw, swim, walk along the beach and the surrounding tracks. She could not do that now. The place they stayed in has been badly affected by fire. Nobody will be going there for now. Will it be rebuilt? Yes, perhaps it will - but it won't be the same. You won't be able to walk the surrounding tracks for a very long time. Ms W and her father are just the sort of tourists people would welcome. They were quiet. They didn't expect to be entertained. They didn't expect things to be the same as they are in the city.
And they don't expect to go there now and have everything the same. 
    "We'd be an absolute nuisance right now," C... told me on their return from Europe this week. (He was working there before you ask why he wasn't holidaying here.)  
He is right about the nuisance value. It is too soon. People need a little more time. Some island accommodation is simply going to be needed for the locals. They lost more housing than people realise. If they are going to rebuild then people need somewhere to live - at least for a short while.
So, if you want to go then do day trips with a tour company. Respect the locals need and desire to rebuild. Don't expect it to be the same as it was before.
And, above all, buy the products they put on the market. That will help more than anything else.  

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