Last week some positive history was made at Wyan, near Rappville, with the first house going up in the district since the disastrous bushfires of 2019.
Although there were no nearby trees, the original historic house on the property was destroyed completely in that fire storm, by ember attack. The residents were lucky to escape with their lives. Fortunately the house was insured. A new (recycled) house arrived on a truck last week from Brisbane, and the owner and tenants were there to greet it.
Owner Nathan Kesteven said, ‘It’s fantastic, so great to see something coming back when there was nothing at all here six months ago. It was all black and charred.’
Echonetdaily asked if it was a big decision to put another house in the same place as the one that burned. ‘It took a while to work out what to do,’ said Dr Kesteven, ‘but it was the right thing to do. The house is from inner city Brisbane. It comes with everything; bathroom, kitchen. It’s moved here today to replace what was lost. The cost of building the old house was unaffordable, but this was a great option, and environmentally sound. A recycled house!’
Tenant Terry ‘Tiger’ Moth-Duncan said it’s fantastic to see a new house on the old site. ‘Very mobile home isn’t it? About time something’s happening, it took a while. The insurance people were a bit slow and the coronavirus put it back a bit, but it’s all happening now and I’d like to thank everyone for their support.’
Mr Moth-Duncan said he’s feeling hopeful about the future. ‘I love it here, it’s a great spot.’ Unfortunately the nearby mill where he worked was destroyed by the fire and he doesn’t think it will be rebuilt. He’s doing some painting work to get by.
Terry’s wife Sharon, who works in aged care, says she’s very excited. ‘I can’t wait to make it a home again. It’s good to watch. Unreal. We’ve come back to the place where the house burned down, and now we’ve got a home, how can that not be exciting?’
After the house is stuck back together, and a local carpenter adds a verandah and stairs, a party is planned.
Down the road in Rappville, Essential Energy is still restoring power lines and many people are still living in tents and caravans. The town’s future is uncertain.
The historic Rappville hotel was saved from fire but is closed and for sale.
Life and colour is everywhere though, thanks to Byron Bay’s Austin Nitsua, who has painted numerous wonderful murals around the town, especially at the school (see gallery, below). There are more murals inside the building.
There was more exciting art news for the town this week with the announcement from Arts Northern Rivers that artists Charlotte Haywood and Lyndall Phelps will be working collaboratively with the people of Rappville to develop a creative response to the devastation, resilience and future of the Rappville Community, in conjunction with Richmond Valley Council.
Photos David Lowe