Torrington's uncleared ruins spark mental health crisis, say residents

Richard Cork lost one of his three houses in Torrington to last year's inferno.
Richard Cork lost one of his three houses in Torrington to last year's inferno.

Richard Cork said it took a day for the animals to come back after the blaze.

On the first day, five birds showed up. Day two, ten.

By the end of the first week he had 45 king parrots and 30 crimson rosellas at his idyllic forest retreat as well as 20 fire tail finches; his own zoo. Three-metre pythons, black snakes, brown snakes. Every bird in the book.

Then the homeless people started showing up - and he took care of some of them, too.

Richard's house was rated 'non defendable' by the RFS, but he spent three months digging in to defend, switched on sprinklers and then left.

"I was too fearful actually to drive up the road and have a look at my residence because I was afraid of what I'd find.

"I'd accepted to lose the bark hut which is my arts studio and my garden which is covered in mesh - didn't lose either of them.

"I had relief, but then the relief drops into depression because you just look at everything around you is dead and grey and there's struggling animals."

Three months on, 16 homes in Torrington lie wrecked, many of them still wrapped in yellow hazard tape.

Just the piano wire survived, everything else in Richard Cork's third house has been wrecked.

Just the piano wire survived, everything else in Richard Cork's third house has been wrecked.

The town, in the NSW Northern Tablelands north of Glen Innes, doesn't know what the government plan is for cleaning up, let alone for rebuilding.

But, arguably even worse, the ruins themselves are triggering a mental health crisis, acting as a reminder of the horror blaze for a community that can't have closure.

"Even though the green has started to come back in the trees and the grass there's still a sense of depression if you walk in and around a place that was yours that you've lost.

"It's slowly getting a bit better to handle but generally the only thing that will make it any better is to remove it all. As soon as you get rid of it all, you can get back on the track, start rebuilding and start a life again to a degree."

Thomas Eveans has been living with Richard - he lost his home and everything in it to the blaze. He has no idea when his homelessness will end - or even when the ruins of his house will be cleaned up.

"The country areas where all this happened in the beginning, it has just been left behind.

"As the fire's progressed south, the north has been forgotten about because they're moving with the fire."

Thomas Eveans (left) with Richard Cork (right) and Glen Innes Severn councilor Diane Newman (middle). Thomas' ruined home is in the background.

Thomas Eveans (left) with Richard Cork (right) and Glen Innes Severn councilor Diane Newman (middle). Thomas' ruined home is in the background.

Like many, he's been given a $1000 payment by the Federal government to live on.

"All they did was get my groceries that I'd just bought the same damn week that the house burned down. That's it.

"If it wasn't for some folks (like Richard), we'd be really in the air, especially me with my dogs. It is really hard still. I'd hate to think that there's other people having to camp in other people's houses as well."

He feels completely in the dark about clean-up plans and asbestos removal. The koolie dog breeder said he wouldn't give the Prime Minister Scott Morrison the time of day.

"When it comes to Scott Morrison, a lot of the country, we've got no time left. There's no time at all for them."

"I mean too much with the government has been let go by the by and money taken away to make it look good so you've got a budget surplus.

"At the end of the day this is the sort of consequences you're coming up with."