Despite cooler conditions and some rain predicted, the bushfires – which are currently burning on either side of the NSW border with Victoria – have torn across large swathes of land and are showing no signs of slowing down.
Since September, 480 million animals have been killed in NSW bushfires alone, while at least 1482 homes, 100 facilities and 2339 outbuildings such as sheds have been confirmed destroyed across NSW since July.
On Thursday, the NSW Rural Fire Service issued a tourist leave zone spanning more than 180 kilometres from Batemans Bay down to Wonboyn near the Victorian border, including the popular holiday towns of Merimbula, Narooma, Tathra, Bermagui and Moruya.
But as the exodus of visitors clogged the highway through Ulladulla as they left fire-struck parts of the coast, there’s a new plea for those who had their holiday cut short to make a return once the smoke settles and the towns begin to rebuild.
Channel 7’s Edwina Bartholomew joined the #GoWithEmptyEskys campaign on social media, encouraging Australians to book a road trip along the south coast to help rebuild communities damaged by the fires.
Reflecting on her own time in Narooma, Eden and Bega while celebrating her honeymoon in 2018, the new mum said she will be booking a road trip later this year once the “bushfire emergency has subsided”.
“Tourism is what keeps many communities on the south coast afloat,” she wrote on Instagram.
“People are abandoning holiday plans and fleeing fire affected areas that depend on profits made from busy summers by the beach.
“@neilwrites spent our honeymoon road trippin’ down South. We stayed at the Narooma Caravan Park, drank cocktails at the Tiki Bar, ate toasted cheese sandwiches in Bega, popped in to see the whales at Eden and carried on through to Victoria.
“We are planning a similar trip this year once the bushfire emergency has subsided. Hopefully you can do the same. Spend some money in small towns, fill up your car at the local servo, eat fish and chips on the wharf, take a fishing trip. Simple pleasures that will make a huge difference to a small business somewhere.”
Her post ran alongside a screengrab of a #GoWithEmptyEskys caption, which had originally been posted by Tegan Weber on Facebook, a post which has been shared almost 20,000 times.
“I want you to do just one simple thing,” she wrote.
“When these fires have stopped, and the towns impacted are safe and trying to regain some sense of ‘normal’, I want you to plan a road trip. Go with empty eskies, empty cars and low fuel.
“Go, spend your money, stay in their hotels, buy from their shops, camp at their camp grounds, buy their gifts, buy their fuel, buy bread and milk.
“Beyond rebuilding, they need continued and long term support to get back on their feet and your empty Esky makes more of a difference than you could ever imagine.”
Ms Weber’s post has received more than 4000 comments, with many sharing and tagging ideas of what to do/see/eat while travelling south.
“I’m down to find lots of local cafes and buy food,” one person wrote.
“Perfectly said … we should all do this,” another added.