Good to hear from a (nearly) local. I'm on the MidNorth Coast, NSW, Australia, only a day's drive South from you.

Since the fires of Summer 2019, when our community, and many others, were cut off by the failure of the civilian comms, I have been researching these LoRa systems for resilient comms.

The first that caught my eye was Scott Powell's well-developed Ripple ecosystem  I've assembled a few versions of those and they work well. Drawback with Ripple is that it is not open source, and the 'Commander' app is payware (one per network). Also Scott is the only developer. That said, he does seem to be committed to it - I guess the payware $ help keep him focused ;)

Then I assembled a few Disaster.Radio and they too worked well. It was a quite active OS project, but pandemic seems to have distracted the devs (understandable!) Good to see energy coming back in to it.

Meshtastic was my next, and that's very active, with a number of devs and wide range of options.

I've assembled a number of these little gadgets, they all work as advertised, and no need for a geek, if they are properly powered, enclosed and solidly mounted. Provision for external controls, esp. reset is still needed though, as the tiny buttons are not easily reached. There are some quite remote deployments being mentioned, at least one repeater perched on a Scottish mountain over winter!

My mainstay to date has been the LilyGo T-Beam, recently added a T-Echo, and there are a couple of WisBlock RAK4600 sets in the mail. Others have been the  Heltec and several earlier LilyGo boards. looks very promising. I've begun exploring that with a couple of T-Beams for the job.

I agree with CodeBus, order a few T-Beams to get your feet wet, join the lists and watch a few Git repos. You can reflash them to other projexts to taste them

D.R, Meshtastic and Project Owl have the means to connect to other messaging services.

BTW: There's a Meshtastic plugin for Every community fire-ute needs one - Not to mention the Rural Fire Service trucks!

Greg Hall