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Hobart flood victims' lives remain disrupted as they wait for answers, repairs and assistance

Rhiannon Shine, Wednesday June 6, 2018 - 05:26 EST
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Kingston resident Rita Steenbergen thought insurance would cover the repair of her fence. - ABC

Almost a month since catastrophic rainfall wreaked havoc in Tasmania's capital, businesses remain closed and homeowners are still picking up the pieces in one of the worst-hit suburbs.

Last month, Hobart recorded more than 100 millimetres of rain in a single day for the first time ever in May — doubling the previous record.

Nick Wiesener from the Insurance Council of Australia said the industry had now received more than 6,700 claims.

"The total damage bill stands at about $45 million to date," he said.

"That is continuing to increase each day."

He said the Kingborough area south of Hobart was one of those worst impacted.

On Wednesday, Kingborough Council, in partnership with the State Government, hosted a flood recovery expo in Kingston.

The Insurance Council of Australia, the Tenants' Union of Tasmania, Housing Tasmania, Legal Aid and other organisations were there to provide guidance and assistance to people affected by the storm.

Residents still waiting for repairs



One of those was Kingston resident Lorraine Thorp, who had been sharing a room with her 10-year-old granddaughter because her house was still uninhabitable.

"There is 99 per cent moisture in the concrete slab," she said.

"The water was 18 inches up the walls."

Ms Thorp said on top of the storm damage she was recovering from cancer, making for an emotional and frustrating few weeks.

"I feel as though I have lost control of everything," she said.

"Because you cannot do anything until the [insurance] assessor or the clean-up crew or somebody says they can do it.

"The insurance assessor is in Queensland, and you have to go back and forward to work out what is going on.

"And I just can't get answers. Who fixes the fence? Who does the yard? Who do I tell what is missing that has been washed away?

"You just want to feel as though somebody cares or somebody is helping you."

Work to clear out the house started just recently, she said, but it will not be fit for to return to for another two months.

Pensioner Rita Steenbergen, also of Kingston, lost her fence in the flood event and is still waiting for it to be fixed.

"I thought I was fully insured but it turned out no gates and no fences [were covered]," she said.

"The fence is my safety. I live on my own. The back fence was totally destroyed — it is very dangerous for me."

She said the $2,000 cost of replacing the fence would be difficult for her to manage without assistance.



'Review of Tenancy Act needed'



Tenants' Union of Tasmania solicitor Alex Bomford said the union had received more than 30 calls for legal advice, mostly from people in Kingborough and Sandy Bay.

"Most people are calling for advice about whether they can stop paying rent, get a rent reduction and whether their landlord has to pay for alternative accommodation," he said.

"If the premises is uninhabitable, we advise people to ask their landlord if they can stop paying rent.

"If their landlord refuses, we advise them to come and see us in person.

"We could potentially sue the landlord."

He said the disaster had proven a review of the Residential Tenancy Act was needed.

"The Tasmanian Tenancy Act is one of the only ones in the country that does not provide specifically for natural disasters and what happens when premises are uninhabitable," he said.

"It does not provide for automatic rent reductions.

"It means that it is not clear for either tenants or owners what their rights are. It makes it difficult for us as well.

"We would ask the Government to look at the act and add something regarding rent reductions.

"Every time there is a natural disaster this is going to keep happening."

Part-time, casual employees without work

Meanwhile, at least a dozen businesses remain closed in the Channel Court Shopping Centre in Kingston alone, which sustained heavy damage in the deluge.

Kingborough Mayor Steve Wass said on top of the financial hit to business owners, many employees were still without work.

"While the business is closed those employees are possibly not on the payroll," he said.

"The part-timers and casuals that are employed maybe 10 or 15 hours a week would have no income."

Mr Wass said the damage bill for the Kingborough Council alone was more than $2 million and the council would seek assistance through the National Disaster Relief funding.


- ABC

© ABC 2018

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