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Carisbrook flood victims 'now just angry' in eight-year wait for new defences, and fear repeat of disaster

Bridget Rollason, Wednesday July 24, 2019 - 15:31 EST
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Carisbrook, in central Victoria, during the January 2011 floods. - ABC

Despite receiving millions of dollars to build a flood levee to protect the central Victorian town of Carisbrook after the January 2011 floods, residents are still waiting for it to be built.

The Central Goldfields Shire received more than $30 million in funding from the State and Federal Governments, but in 2017 the ABC revealed a significant amount of money was unaccounted for.

Some was spent on other projects and the council had to pay it back.

Many, like Helen Broad, fear a repeat of the devastating floods if the levees are not built.

"I said I'd take a fire [over a flood] any day, because everything is gone," the Carisbrook resident said.

More than 250 homes and farms were inundated and almost 1,000 people had to be evacuated from the town, after record-breaking rainfall.

"All of a sudden we were waist-deep in water. It was scary, especially for the elderly and children," Ms Broad said.

"To return to our homes after the floods was just heartbreaking, there was mud and slush and the smell, it was just disgusting.

"It was painful to see your whole dreams of what you worked towards be ruined like that."

It took months for the community to get back on its feet after the natural disaster, but eight years later Carisbrook remains vulnerable.

Carisbrook put in 'too hard basket'

Locals, who fear a repeat of the disaster, are demanding answers.

"To start off with I was frustrated, now I'm just angry," Carisbrook CFA Captain Ian Boucher said.

"I'm pretty sure if 200 houses were lost in Maryborough, something would have well and truly been done by now.

"Carisbrook seems to be put in the too hard basket."

Mr Boucher said a lot of people lost everything in the floods.

"I think the human toll has been completely forgotten," he said.

"My mother lived in her home all her life and for her to come back and see the devastation in her home, she was never the same."

Council doing 'they very best we can'

The chief executive officer of the Central Goldfields Shire and its councillors were sacked because of concerns of financial mismanagement in 2017.

But Carisbrook residents say they still have nothing to show for the millions of dollars the town received to protect it.

Earlier this month, about 40 residents demanded a meeting with the new administrators to get an update on the work.

Chief administrator Noel Harvey, who took over the running of the shire after its council was axed, said they have got the ball rolling but he could not guarantee when work would begin.

"This has been a very slow and tortuous process," Mr Harvey said.

"I'm not going to point the finger at anybody, but the fact is this has gone on far too long.

"The previous council sat on their hands for a long time, because it was hard, but we've been working on this for 18 months [and] I'm very confident we will get this done."

Mr Harvey said he understood residents' frustration but said a lot of work had been happening behind closed doors.

"We are doing our very best to get this built as soon as we possibly can, but we also need to make sure it actually does the job," he said.

"We are negotiating with the landholder. Unfortunately the land has changed hands and that has held up that negotiation.

"The community deserves to have this thing built and it should've been built years ago."

Carisbrook residents say they will believe it when they see it.

Insurance 'skyrocketing'

John Taylor made a tree change in 2010 by moving to Carisbrook.

Six months later, his house was inundated with a metre and a half of water.

He is one of many residents who said insurance in the town was becoming unaffordable because of a lack of action.

"This year my insurance premium for my house has gone up 40 per cent. The reason being because it's in a flood zone and it's not protected," Mr Taylor said.

"That's 40 per cent this year, plus what they put it up last year and the year before."

He said some residents could not even get insurance to protect their homes with certain companies.

"If the levee bank was there that closes the gap and fixes that part of it," Mr Taylor said.

Mr Taylor said he had to put his own plan in place: if it starts to rain too heavily, he will leave Carisbrook immediately.

"Everyone has just forgotten how devastating it was here," he said.

"The council itself has had the go ahead to do the levee for some time and they've just sat on their laurels and done nothing.

"Why haven't they done it? Eight years is a long time.

"What are we going to do, wait for the next flood?"


© ABC 2019

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