We are still drowning: Bob waits on a buyback

Robert May at his flood damaged home in Woodburn. Photo: Susanna Freymark

Susanna Freymark

When Robert ‘Bob’ May walks down the street in Woodburn, people say – “G’day Movie star.”

He laughs at the recognition.

Bob was rescued from his flooded home last year by two blokes in a tinnie. His story and theirs was told in the short film Tinnie Heroes that screened at Woodburn Memorial Hall on the anniversary of the floods in March this year.

Bob is 86 and he’s hoping for a buyback on his flood damaged Woodburn home.

Many residents have had phone calls from the Northern Rivers Flood Corporation informing them they weren’t eligible for a buyback, house raise or retrofit. Bob hasn’t had a call yet.

Recently he was told a buyback could be an issue because his 3ha property was more than 2ha and was classified as rural even though it is in the village of Woodburn.

State MP Janelle Saffin said the flood corporation’s Resilient Homes Program treated properties up to 2ha as residential and above 2ha on a case by case basis.

A Northern Rivers Reconstruction Corporation spokesperson said buybacks were one of the options available for homes that are on land zoned for rural purposes (properties above 2ha).

“We are currently working with rural property owners who applied to the Resilient Homes Program to find out more information about their property to help us identify what the best course of action is for each of them.”

Bob still isn’t sure where he stands and what, if anything will be offered. The inaction stops him moving forward. How can he make plans about where to live without knowing what his options are?

Bob is so frustrated by the flood recovery process, he has sent a message to MPs and State Parliament.

Here’s what he wrote:

“We are still drowning.

Almost 18 months ago the Northern Rivers was swamped in what was subsequently described as the worst natural event to have ever occurred in New South Wales history.   

Following that, this community was submerged in a series of promises, absolute silence from the body established to undertake the recovery process, surveys, so-called “listening” politicians, assurances of reports to be tabled in Parliament and “re-thinks” which never eventuated.

And what is the situation now, on August 13, 2023?    

Northern Rivers Flood Survivors are still drowning in the floodwaters of Macquarie Street’s monumentally gigantic stuff-up, the like of which has never been seen in recorded history.”  

Film release: Watch Tinnie Heroes in your own home

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