Coffs Coast residents push a car to safety as the rains come down on March 31, 2009.
Coffs Coast residents push a car to safety as the rains come down on March 31, 2009.

Flood victim 'celebrates' one year

SYLVIA Smith will play 18 holes of golf on Wednesday.

It will be the first time the keen golfer has played a full round of her favourite game in 13 months and it is her way of celebrating the anniversary of the ordeal that began on March 31, 2009, when her Gundagai Place villa and hundreds of other homes were submerged under stormwater.

Already struggling with health problems, it was a disaster Ms Smith did not need and she is still coping with the effects.

“I am still struggling to get the garden up and running,” Ms Smith said yesterday.

“It is still costing me, and a knee operation and heart problems didn’t help.

“We have all aged. I’m not as fit as I used to be but I can handle it physically – it is more difficult to cope mentally.

“I have rebuilt the house; rebuilt the yard and rebuilt my body in the last 12 months.

“I feel if we had got flooded and could hose out the place and get back in, it would have been okay but it was the absolute disaster of having to move five times in seven months.

“I spent last Easter in a motel room on my own and I had to go out for breakfast, lunch and dinner because there were no cooking facilities – then I was in a caravan park with a Woolies bag on the floor for a grocery cupboard and I thought: ‘How has my life got to this?’”

Ms Smith said while some reconstruction jobs were rushed and others delayed because builders could not get workers, the site manager for the reconstruction of her villa complex did the best he could under the circumstances.

She is also pleased with the flood mitigation efforts being made by Coffs Harbour City Council, particularly general manager Stephen Sawtell.

“I definitely think Coffs Harbour City Council is being more pro-active now,” she said.

“It’s no use looking back, it’s too late, we have to move forward.”

“We had a meeting with the mayor and general manager after March 31 and they were very offhand, more or less blaming us, but since then Stephen Sawtell has been excellent and he came in November to see we were all right.”

Sylvia Smith is in favour of the proposed rate rise to fund council’s flood mitigation work, as long as the money is spent ‘wholly and solely’ on flood mitigation work, as planned.

She said without this work, money spent on an entertainment centre would be wasted, as more flooding would see businesses closing down and people leaving town.

Neighbour and flood mitigation campaigner Christine McNichol is going out to dinner on Wednesday to celebrate the anniversary.

In spite of everything, she does not want to move from the home she chose for its location and its community.

“I’m still waiting for furniture to arrive,” Ms McNichol said.

“My contents insurance for things like books and DVDs is still coming in – the insurance company I was with changed brokers and name which slowed things down and because I was out of my home for seven months, things didn’t start until I was back in.

“Five days after I moved back in the water came to the door – I moved out again for a week and lost heart – I was a bit depressed, to put it mildly.

“I still have no pictures on the walls. Every time I think about putting them up I think ‘what’s the point’.”

But she said a recent trip overseas to visit her daughter had given her a different perspective and allowed her to fully appreciate the help she had received including ‘17 members of the Musical Comedy Company in here scrubbing and singing and taking my photos home to dry with hair dryers’.

Ms McNichol said the Coffs Harbour City Council’s flood mitigation work can’t come soon enough.

“I am quite happy to support anything they try to do. In the short-term it won’t affect me but we need to look at the long-term – at least they are trying to look at the whole thing and they are out there having a go,” she added.

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