A Wagga removalist has been left "gutted" after his attempts to lend a hand to those hit hard by last summer's devastating bushfires were met with rejection from Snowy Valleys Council.
When business got quiet due to COVID-19, Ron Lee decided to start delivering free furniture to the families of Tumbarumba and Batlow who lost everything to the flames.
At his own expense, Mr Lee made multiple round trips due to the sheer volume of furniture donated by Wagga locals after he put the call out. Initially, he took the items out to the community-run bushfire donation centre, at the Mill in Tumbarumba, but that closed.
Since then, Mr Lee has been trying to find another way to get the donated goods to those who so desperately need them.
"I made a promise to the good people of Wagga that what they donated would go straight to those in our region," he said.
"They really went above and beyond and gave me great quality items such as pool tables, furniture, pans, crockery - and some of this stuff is even brand new. I have three-and-a-half storage containers full to the brim with it.
"I have been trying to work with the Snowy Valleys Council, and I have heard nothing from them."
A council spokesperson said it had advised Mr Lee that it does not have any facilities to collect or store donated items. "The community-run bushfire donation centre, at the Mill in Tumbarumba, was the final community collection point to close in July/August 2020 and Mr Lee had generously donated furniture to this centre when it was in operation," the spokesperson said.
"While we do appreciate Mr Lee's ongoing passion to help those affected by the bushfires, donated furniture and other goods are no longer in high demand by those who were fire affected."
Mr Lee said the response "gutted" him.
"It's a total disgrace to say it is no longer needed," he said.
"I am trying to do the right thing by the people of Wagga and do what I said, but I am getting no help in doing it.
"These people have had everything burnt, and some would still be needing items. I am just shattered."
Mr Lee said he was still trying to find a way to get the items to those who need it. However, after months of paying for storage out of his own pocket, he might need to take the stock elsewhere.
"I might need to take it to those on the border who were also affected," he said.
"But I really want to give it to the families up here who were hit.
"So I am open to suggestions from any community members who might know a place we can display these items for people to collect."
For anyone interested in helping, contact Mr Lee on (02) 6926 3039.