Helmut Delriuex - 5 April 2022

Helmut Delriuex presented to Council at the Public Access Session on 5 April 2022.

My name is Helmut Delriuex, President of the Eurobodalla Woodcraft Guild inc., also known as the Woodies. Our group, together with the Moruya Antique Tractor & Machinery Association and others, lost all possessions and premises in the bushfire of New Year’s Eve 2019.

I thank you for this opportunity to present our case to Council for assistance in obtaining some land on which to rebuild.

We initially received some encouragement from Council to the extent that your predecessors voted in November 2020 to lease us and other groups land for club premises.

I sought this opportunity to remind Councillors of this commitment.

At the time of the bushfire we had 62 members, ranging in age from early 60s to mid-90s. We are now down to 47, including 10 women. As a member of the Australian Men’s Shed Association, we have been told that we were the only Men’s Shed to have been lost in NSW during the fires.

Our members come from a wide variety of backgrounds and live from Durras in the north to Tuross Head in the south. Our geographical centre, and the centre of our activities for the past 12 years or so, has been the Original Gold Rush Colony at Mogo, where we have contributed to the economic and cultural life of the village.

Visitors to the area would regularly come by our workshop when visiting the Colony, keen to see timber artisans at work, and purchase our hand-made timber products. We maintained open workshop sessions during the River of Art festival, and held stalls at the Mogo Festival.

We have been a part of the cultural fabric of the Mogo and have been told that the Business Chamber would welcome our return.

We sustain our activities with membership fees, and selling hand-made timber products at markets, shopping centre stalls and woodcraft exhibitions.

As a not for profit organisation, we avoid competing with local manufacturers and sales outlets. But we regularly undertake community projects for free or on a cost-recovery basis for other not for profit organisations such as Bay Kindergarten, Canberra & Moruya Anglicare, Eurobodalla Botanical Gardens, Eurobodalla Shire Council St. Johns Church and Broulee Surf Club.

After the fires, we maintained our members’ engagement by having workshop days in members’ home workshops and monthly meetings in members’ homes – to the extent possible with COVID restrictions.

We have received much second-hand equipment from Men’s Sheds and others and pursued various grants to maintain our operation.

Most importantly, we have been pursuing the critical missing piece to our recovery efforts – land for us to rebuild on.

Our current situation of three shipping containers with a roof between two of them has been generously provided by a friend who, having received much community support after being burnt out, wished to give something back to the community.

This situation is temporary.

We can now accommodate only a reduced number of members, and access is not easy, particularly for aged or infirm members.

The most promising and suitable prospect for us is to obtain a lease on Council-administered Crown land, and, at a Council meeting in November 2020, the former Council resolved to lease us and others a parcel of land.

In late 2020 we had discussions with Council about part of Bimbimbie Rural Fire Service land, which had various problems limiting its suitability. Council then proposed the Crown land site on the corner of Tomakin Road and the Princes Highway near the Fire Shed, which we believe would be very suitable.

We have made submissions to Council’s Property Officer and to the Crown Lands office at Nowra to expedite a lease but all negotiations were stalled when Council told us it was engaging consultants to develop a Mogo Village Place Reactivation Plan.

We agree that it’s good to have an overall plan for Mogo’s future.

Facilitating our Guild’s recovery and re-establishment in Mogo was then, and still is, entirely consistent with the vision and principles of that plan, the vision being:

“Retain its unique local Village character and charm; meet the needs of residents, businesses and visitors; and a place that offers opportunities for discovery, adventure and everyday enjoyable experiences.”

and principle 5 being:

“Deliver infrastructure and facilities to support the needs of the community and visitors.”

But the action it talks about relating to us – 3.2, Investigate a multi-function cultural/community space on the corner of Tomakin Road and Princes Highway – is listed as a long-term action envisaged to begin in five to ten years’ time!!

The executive summary mentions our Guild as one of the community organisations that was consulted in the plan’s development. And the plan claims to be informed by the community’s aspirations and priorities.

Clearly the consultants have misread or do not understand our community’s needs. We have the resources and skills to proceed now if we had the land.

Time is very important to our members. A good proportion of the current membership will not be alive in five to ten years when the Mogo Village Place Activation Plan envisages beginning to investigate work on the community’s priorities.

The longer we delay the building of our permanent, replacement home:

  • the fewer of our existing members will be alive to enjoy it
  • the more building costs will have risen (about 40% in the last two years)
  • we run the risk of losing our temporary workshop
  • and the less attractive membership of the club will be to prospective new members.

So this is an existential issue for us as a club, and the longer our recovery from the bushfire is drawn out, the greater the likelihood that we won’t come back as a strong and vibrant community group.

I believe that our new Council is keen to find meaningful ways it can help with the community’s recovery – and I hope it appreciates the contribution we make to the community.

Well, here is an opportunity – right here, right now – to be part of the solution, for our Woodies group and for others who were also displaced in the fires.

In granting us a lease, Council would be fulfilling a commitment made two years ago in support of its community. For its efforts, Council will receive a modest return in lease payments on Crown land that it administers but on which it currently receives no return.

We ask simply that Council do what it earlier said it would do – provide this displaced community group with a lease of land so that we can get on with rebuilding our new home.

Thank you again for the opportunity to present our case.