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Some shops still empty 10 years after superstorm swept through Wallsend

By Dan Cox and Karen Shrosbery, Monday June 5, 2017 - 07:29 EST
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Stricken freighter Pasha Bulker sits on Nobbys Beach. - ABC

Nearly 10 years on from the deadly June 2007 storm that ravaged New South Wales, a businessman in the Newcastle suburb of Wallsend says some of the shops in the small CBD remain empty.

On Thursday it will be a decade since an east coast low killed nine people, inundated thousands of properties with water, and grounded the coal ship Pasha Bulker on Newcastle's Nobbys Beach.

Nelson Street in Wallsend's CBD was particularly affected, including Glenn Jennings' and David Earle's embroidery shop, which was destroyed.

"We've had about four foot of water run through the shop. It came through our back roller door," Mr Earle said in the days after the storm.

"We've got embroidery machines out the back that weigh about a tonne-and-a-half, and the water has knocked them over.

"It's then come through our dividing wall and blown our front shop windows out. It's broken all the brickwork underneath, it's just a mess.

"We had stock running down the drain, and we are totally destroyed. I don't think we'll salvage very much at all."

Shop has been empty ever since

Mr Jennings said there was no evidence anything had changed when it came to flood mitigation.

"There will always be that nagging doubt now that, if you were to even rent a building down here, I don't think you'd get insurance for flood ever again in this area," he said.

"That is a problem because you're then taking a risk of throwing your capital into something that might go away in the next flood."

Mr Jennings said he had sold the building after the flood, and it had been empty ever since.

"There was a real, real terrible time for a lot of people down here because they didn't have the right insurance," he said.

"Unfortunately when there's an interpretation one way for the insurance company they're going to say no, and a lot of these people got burnt and they've moved on, disappeared.

"Sadly, quite a few of the shops are still empty, 10 years on."

MP urges council to make flood mitigation plans a priority

Wallsend MP Sonia Hornery said the only way the CBD would not go under water again was if three key bridges were rebuilt immediately.

The town also went under during the 2015 superstorm, and she said she did not want to see businesses dealing with another flood.

"The only way that will not happen again is if we implement the flood risk management plans," she said.

"They include one major thing — the council rebuilds the three problematic bridges in Wallsend, which don't allow the floodwater to move along.

"That's the Tyrrell Street Bridge, the Nelson Street Bridge, and the Boscawen Street Bridge."

Ms Hornery is calling on Newcastle council to make the project its highest priority.

She said the latest report showed rebuilding Tyrrell Street Bridge would cost about $1.8 million.

"Unless those three bridges are re-built completely, we will be flooded again," she said.

"There's been too much talk. I've met with the six different general managers of Newcastle council about this, and lobbied them for funding.

"Really, the bridges are council responsibility. It needs to be a priority, built as soon as possible."


© ABC 2017

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