Chef Rick Stein talks of a community shocked into silence as he watched Australia's Lake Conjola 'go up in smoke'

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent Dan Rivers

The lasting effects of the bush fires that have devastated parts of Australia could go beyond smoke and fire damage.

Businesses in Australia untouched by the flames still risk being destroyed by the impact the fires have had on tourism.

British celebrity chef Rick Stein, who owns a restaurant in Lake Conjola in New South Wales, has urged tourists to return to the area after the fires destroyed 89 homes in the park on New Year's Eve.

Lake Conjola, a small town on the south coast of NSW is usually bustling with holiday makers during Australia's summer months. But instead of rows of tents, the campsite was home to a few kangaroos taking the opportunity to nibble unscorched grass.

Mr Stein, who runs a restaurant across the bay from Lake Conjola, told ITV News he was forced to evacuate his home as the fire took hold.

He said he watched the fire consume Lake Conjola from his restaurant as stunned diners looked on.

"We were told to leave because the way the wind was blowing, it could have quite easily have come right up here. At one stage when I left the house I thought I would never see it again," the celebrity chef told ITV News.

"I remember sitting here on New year's Eve just watching Lake Conjolagoing up, literally, in smoke and everybody around us was just shocked into silence, really. It's been so bad."

The usually bustling Lake Conjola is now home to a few kangaroos. Credit: ITV News

The area now risks being destroyed not by fire, but by lack of finances as tourists stay away.

Mr Stein has urged people to return once it is safe to do so and support the area and the local businesses.

"Thinking about Padstow in Cornwall where I come from, it's like losing the first couple of weeks in August in a seasonal business," he said.

Boats are pulled ashore as smoke and wildfires rage behind Lake Conjola, Credit: AP

"And it's the same here. If you're a small business and you lose the first couple of weeks in January you might well go under."

"What I'm keen to do is to persuade people to come back here. Bushfires of this severity only happen once every 10, 20 years. Next year is going to be lovely. And even for the rest of this year!"