Living a nightmare
By KIREN THANDI
STOPPING over in Coffs Harbour while on the way to Rockhampton in 1997, Tasmanians Bill and Nessa Randall decided that this was the place they wanted to retire.
The home they bought in Sandy Beach is a short stroll to the ocean, and the weather much warmer than the southern island. But trouble awaited in paradise.
"The first thing we knew about a highway upgrade was when we received a 'circular' dated 18 March, 2002," Mrs Randall said.
"We looked into this, which was very difficult from Tasmania, and were told by several people that this will not eventuate or it will take years and years to happen or, the best of all, was that the route wanted by the council will bypass our home and we will not be affected." However, after receiving a letter from the RTA inviting them to meet with a representative of the project team as they would potentially be affected, the Randalls became worried.
"We could no longer take the word of anyone we spoke to as we then understood that they did not know what they were talking about," she said.
Mrs Randall said she phoned the Project Development manager, who sent her an email of the RTA Land Acquisitions 'rule book', however, there was nothing they could do other than wait for the RTA to come and advise them that they were ready to acquire their home.
"I phoned (the project development manager) several times from Tasmania, asking when, why, what, how, etc . . . each time trying to get some sense out of a man who, in not so many words, advised that (the RTA) did not have to tell us when they would acquire our home and anyway, they were not ready as yet and were just keeping us informed and up to date.
"Thinking back now I would really have not wanted to be kept up to date and informed as over the years it has caused nothing but stress. It's still causing stress."
Mrs Randall said that after moving to Sandy Beach, they had spent about $25,000 on renovations to the house, which had been rented out while they were living in Tasmania, however, the insecurity of the situation makes them reluctant to do any more.
"We can't do the things we want to here, I'm even reluctant to plant things and make a garden as I'd do this spending money for the RTA to bulldoze everything down," she said.
"We can't sell or even try to sell as that is seen as a 'willingness to sell' in the RTA Land Acquisitions 'rule book'.
"The RTA know they are taking homes, therefore they should acquire those homes now and pay full compensation to the owners."
Another shock for the Randalls came in August last year, when they received a letter from the Department of Lands stating that the valuation of their property had fallen from $165,000 to $125,000.
"When I enquired about this they stated that it wasn't because the RTA would eventually acquire our home, it was because someone along the same side of the road complained that the valuation was too high, so (the department) re-valued the land of everyone on the same side of the street?"
"Is it that easy to get any government office to help someone?
"All we want is to be able to feel comfortable in a home, and we can't in this home."