Self-sufficient ‘utopia’ built over 10 years destroyed by Fingal fire

Michael Warner, 53, planned to retire at Mangana, but now he has nothing.

1835-PAB_9291

A Mangana man has lost everything in the Fingal fire.

Michael Warner, 53, moved to the small community of Mangana 10 years ago. It was one of the few places in the state he was able to afford land outright, and for the first year or so he lived in a tent with a sleeping bag.

Over the following decade he has built a “utopia” for himself, in the words of friend Lorano Agostonelli.

Mr Warner built a cabin, an amenities block, a garden, an orchard of fruit trees, and enough timber to be self-sufficient.

He powered it with solar panels and batteries.

He bought a caravan and a commodore, and made equipment and tools himself to put his jewellery-making skills to use. He had gotten himself off Centrelink through a small business.

It is all gone, and it was not insured.

“I was on Newstart, I barely had enough to cover food and fuel for a fortnight,” he said. “Half the materials I used were either seconds or special deals.”

“I’ve tried starting a business that I was hoping would take off, casting metal items for medieval reenactments, witchcraft people, goths, and so forth. I do necklaces, brooches, belt buckles, things of that nature.

“But most of my equipment was there at the cabin and is gone. My metal supply is now probably molten slag. My furnace may be OK, but all the other equipment is probably ash. All my reference books, the wax, master carving tools … all gone.”

Mr Warner was in Victoria seeing friends and making connections for his jewellery business.

He said he was watching and listening to news of the Fingal fire from the mainland: the first wave of fire that damaged his property, the second wave that flattened it, and two days later, photographic confirmation.

He said although he has lost “his life for the past ten years”, there is still one thing for which he is grateful.

“Before the event I was always adamant that it was defendable; I’d cleared enough around it,” he said.

“Initial reports supported that but when the second wave came through – well, I would have been deluded, I may have been a victim if I’d been there. So I’m highly thankful that I wasn’t in that situation.”

Friends around the East Coast have offered various kinds of support, but Mr Warner does not know if he wants to continue living in Tasmania after this.

“I’m looking at literally starting from scratch,” he said.

“When I moved there ten years ago I was planning on retiring there. I made the place self-sufficient, with an orchard and enough timber on the property to supply my own timber needs. And it’s all gone.

“I’ve got less than I had when I arrived. I had a shipping container, a trailer and a carload of stuff when I arrived and now I’ve got only what I had in my car when I left.”

It is alleged the fires at Fingal started with one that was deliberately lit.

On Saturday a Mangana resident named Robert Peter Matthewson, 35, was charged with unlawfully setting fire to vegetation.

A friend of Mr Warner’s has set upĀ a GoFundMe page to support him.

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