The federal government announced this week that farmers, graziers and primary producers affected by bushfires would be eligible for grants of up to $75,000 to repair sheds, fences and equipment.
“That’s a handout and you can’t begrudge that,” Mr Terlich said. He estimates the fires destroyed “six figures” worth of property across the family’s five properties.
In all, 22 structures were flattened, including the 140-year-old homestead Allendale, one of the oldest properties in the valley.
“Most of the things that survived were insured, things that didn’t were uninsured,” Mr Terlich, 47, said.
Everything is black and burnt, with the exception of an old and weathered sign saying Terlichs Road that dated back 70 years to when his grandparents started farming in the area.
Mr Terlich worries that short-term fixes, such as grants, will distract attention from the reality that the recovery will take up to five years. It would require tax breaks and long-term no-interest loans to “give people a breathing space”.
“These communities are destroyed across the board, and most people are running dead,” he said.
“Everyone’s emotions are going wild, you can go from to low to high in one day … What’s not driven home is that fire destroys a community completely. You think it is over in five minutes and you rebuild but how do you get the economy going again?”
Mr Terlich was away at his milk processing plant Milk & Me in Bodalla on New Year’s Eve when a neighbour telephoned to say he could see a “glow” over Mr Terlich’s Verona.
While everyone was leaving, he drove back to his property, with the blaze illuminating the sky from 12 kms away.
“It was atmospheric conditions outside my control,” Mr Terlich said.
“By the time I got here everything was alight.”
He moved cattle to safety, and used his tractor to extinguish what he could, driven by adrenalin and oblivious to danger.
Embers started spot-fires. Inside sheds, organic material, including cow manure, got so hot it spontaneously combusted when fuelled by oxygen. “It was embering underneath,” Mr Terlich said.
“I was here trying to put fires out, and just about on death’s door. I’ve still got smoke inhalation, lungs are pretty crook (and ) eyes ..” he said, coughing frequently.
Julie Power is a senior journalist at The Sydney Morning Herald.