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More than 200 Townsville properties remain damaged two years on from floods

By Sofie Wainwright, Friday October 23, 2020 - 08:02 EDT
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Wayne McDonald moved back into his home this week even though flood repairs are not complete. - ABC

Wayne McDonald moved back into his flood-affected Townsville house this week, almost two years since it was hit during the 2019 monsoon.



But he said "it's not quite home" — tradies are still working, furniture is boxed up, and a skip bin sits on the front lawn.

"We've actually moved back in against the builders' wishes," Mr McDonald said.

He said the apartment he and his partner had been staying in was being re-let and repairs on his two-storey house should be complete at the end of next week.



"We've got the animals and we just couldn't find somewhere to stay for two, three weeks," he said.

"We're here now, glamping in Idalia [a Townsville suburb]."

COVID-19 affecting recovery

Shortly after the monsoon, the Queensland Reconstruction Authority (QRA) completed 8,400 assessments of North Queensland properties and about 4,000 have since been identified as damaged.

Last week, the QRA inspected progress on the outstanding 1,045 Townsville properties, mostly houses, and said almost 78 per cent had been repaired.

A remaining 232 properties were damaged and work had commenced on half of them, while 74 of those properties remain uninhabitable.

It is an improvement on October 2019, when the QRA deemed 1,805 properties as damaged and 742 of them unliveable.

"We know the houses that they're talking about … they're the ones with the long grass and they're usually in the back streets," Mr McDonald said.



"I didn't expect that nearly two years down the track there would be anyone out of their homes.

"It was just a combination of things … the lack of tradies, dealing with the insurance company … and we weren't going to settle for less than what we expected to get."

Townsville Mayor Jenny Hill said COVID-19 had slowed down recovery.

"Townsville has taken consecutive hits with COVID-19 shutting down the country just after the first anniversary of the monsoon," Councillor Hill said.

"Now our local builders are also contending with the housing boom brought on by the home builder grants, which has affected the availability of qualified tradespeople to complete repairs."

Mental anguish persists



Mr McDonald is physically and mentally exhausted.

"It's the whole displacement, your life is thrown into a shambles … you get a call and you have to be on site now," he said.

He said he had met the Townsville Hospital and Health Service's Disaster Recovery Team, which started in September 2019.

Team leader Lorelle Benson said the clinicians had helped hundreds of people, and were still seeing a steady stream of new clients.

She said the team provided advice and trauma-focussed counselling to people who had presented with a cross-section of issues.

"People who have lost considerable property or have been feeling the effects of the stress of having to deal with the insurance agencies or banks," Ms Benson said.

"Right through to people being triggered when the rains started again this year around February — just those reminders and key anniversary times.

"Obviously with COVID on top of the floods, things have been pretty stressful."



Normality returning

Glenda Worrell moved back in to her Idalia home in March.

She's a real estate agent and said she had sold blocks of land and flood-affected homes close to the river and lakes since the monsoon.



"I sold a block of land, one of the last remaining blocks on the river, a couple of days ago," Ms Worrell said.

"All houses that have been renovated through insurance are looking like brand new in the suburbs people want to live in.

"It was really encouraging to see people really do see it as a one-off event.

"We could have a cyclone this year … at the end of the day it is what it is."



Another real estate agent, Damien Keyes, said he had just sold an Idalia house for more than $1 million — breaking his record sale price.

Mr McDonald said he was pleased to see people's lives returning to normal.

"Slowly people are starting to go on their walks in the afternoon, in the mornings," Mr McDonald said.

"We all say hi to each other and we all know each other and we've been through that together."

Support is available for people affected by the floods via the Community Recovery Hotline (1800 173 349) and Townsville Disaster Recovery Team (07 4433 8378).


- ABC

© ABC 2020

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