The generosity of people keen to help fire-ravaged communities is causing what the NSW Government has dubbed “a second disaster”.
The NSW Office of Emergency Management (OEM) said towns struggling in the aftermath of the fires were having to deal with unsolicited donations of toys, clothes and furniture, which were not needed.
OEM spokesman Jeremy Hillman described the deluge of goods as potentially a “second disaster”.
He said well-meaning donors were unintentionally putting stress on those trying to recover from the crisis.
“Unfortunately, what usually happens is local communities become overwhelmed very quickly with donated goods,” he said.
“Individuals think that that’s the best way to help, to fill up a car or a truck or a shipping container with clothes furniture and toys, but the reality is hundreds, if not thousands of people start to do that and then converge on these impacted areas.
“They have nowhere to store the goods, nobody to sort them and ultimately these goods don’t get to the people anyway.”
Victoria is grappling with the same problem, prompting Police and Emergency Services Minister Lisa Neville to urge the community to donate cash instead.
Ms Neville said one East Gippsland community had received about 10,000 apples, when what they needed was money.
“We do not need any more food, we do not need any more clothes. Give money … support the local businesses and the communities.”
The OEM said some local communities still needed food, water and other supplies, but that cash donations were the best way to help.
Clogging community halls is also a problem.
“In small communities, the hall is the only place that these people have to come together for recovery meetings to catch up with each other or to hold their own events and activities,” Mr Hillman said.
“We see all over NSW that these halls get filled up to the roof, and at the same time the community has nowhere to come together while it’s full.”
In the past week, star power has sparked massive donations to help fund firefighters and recovery efforts.
Pop star Pink, and actor Nicole Kidman have both pledged $500,000, while comedian Celeste Barber’s appeal has raised more than $40 million.
Nearly $35,000,000 has been donated to the Red Cross Disaster Response and Recovery Fund since New Year’s Eve.
This week, it will start processing applications for grants of $5,000 from people whose homes have been destroyed.