Tradies getting people home but 100s still displaced
TOWNSVILLE'S tradesmen have worked themselves to the bone and down to the wire to get as many flood victims home by Christmas as they can, but hundreds still remain displaced.
Rob Rule and Cameron McInnes, owners of Reef Coast Constructions, officially downed tools only yesterday after months of non-stop work.
Their efforts, along with the tradies and subbies who work with them, have allowed Idalia couple Jason and Cheryle Selman to move back home just a few days before Christmas.
But others are not as lucky.
Latest figures by the Queensland Reconstruction Authority reveal more than 1800 homes remain damaged and nearly 800 remain uninhabitable.
The Selmans consider themselves one of the lucky ones, with homes on their street still uninhabitable.
"We're pretty lucky, there are others in a much, much worse state than us," Mr Selman said.
"There's a house a couple down that just looks like nothing's been done on it, maybe they were uninsured, I don't know, but it's obviously a lot tougher for other people.
"We've been lucky to have a local builder so we've been able to communicate quite easily to get stuff done, and that's made a hell of a difference."
Mr Selman said one of the biggest sources of frustration had been dealing with interstate insurance assessors who didn't understand the North Queensland building landscape.
It took them four months before their insurance company agreed to let Reef Coast Constructions, a company the couple have used for years, do the work.
Mr Rule said his company, a business he built from scratch 15 years ago, told eight families they would be back in their rebuilt homes by today.
That promise was kept.
"It's such a significant milestone in the year, for people who have been displaced especially to be able to go home for Christmas," he said.
"They can start a new year fresh knowing they can be in their own home and they can put the tumultuous year behind them. It was really important to us to get them in.
"The groundswell of support from the local community to use local builders and local tradespeople to carry out the works was enormous and it was really heartwarming."
A total of 3300 properties across Townsville were damaged during the floods, according to the Queensland Reconstruction Authority.
The latest count by the QRA, completed in October, revealed 2200 properties had been fixed but 1806 remained damaged.
Data obtained by theTownsville Bulletin shows half of those are in Idalia, 270 in Hermit Park and 178 in Rosslea. The rest are spread across Aitkenvale, Annandale, Hyde Park, Mundingburra, Oonoonba, and Railway Estate.
A QRA spokesman said of those homes, work had begun on a total of 1261.
There are 742 properties that remain uninhabitable.
In Idalia, in between a smattering of homes adorned with Christmas lights and decorations, sit shipping containers, skip bins, and tradesmen's utes.
Townsville Enterprise chief executive Patricia O'Callaghan, herself an Idalia resident also impacted by the floods, said it had been a tough year but believes there is a "sense of optimism" brewing in the suburb.
"We moved back in only a couple of months ago and to see every day more people back in their homes, more lights on in houses, more people in the business precinct that surrounds it, is a real sense of optimism," she said.
"Contractors are working overtime to get people back in their homes (by Christmas) and they have to be given a huge round of applause.
"We aren't out of the woods yet, we know that we are still having issues with insurance, we know there are people who aren't home yet (so) I don't think anyone is taking their foot off the pedal just yet."
Mr Rule said he took on two extra tradies and the company had been going "hell for leather" from the time the insurers gave them the all clear to begin work.
He has five new projects to start work on once 2020 rolls around.
Mr Rule said it was "difficult to say" if the hundreds of affected residents would still be out of home by Christmas 2020 but didn't rule it out as a possibility.
"I've heard of projects that are just sitting still, they've been cleaned out but have no further work done to them," he said.
"There are a whole lot of factors that could be behind that, people could be underinsured or not insured, or they can't come to an agreement with their insurance company.
"I would think that most people would be back in their homes by mid-2020, or I'd like to think that anyway."
NO END IN SIGHT WITH INSURANCE FIGHT
RAILWAY Estate homeowner Sarah Little had 30cm of water go through her Queenslander during the February flood, but what looked like a simple fix has turned into a seemingly never ending battle with her insurer.
Ms Little, 29, will now take her insurer to the Australian Financial Complaints Authority, claiming they had "absolutely screwed us".
The saga began immediately after the disaster, with the bottom level of Ms Little's home, which included the bathroom and the laundry, wiped out by floodwaters.
Assessors came in, and builders were called in claiming it would all be done in six weeks' time.
But once they stripped the walls they realised the home's slab needed to be excavated and redone.
The insurer also found asbestos in the walls. And when they pulled off the ceiling, they realised there was historic termite damage.
According to Ms Little the insurer decided to bail on the project, instead offering her a $60,000 payout and leaving the bottom part of her home demolished.
"To get everything done, we're looking at $280,000," she said.
"We've been in the house the whole time, we've never been offered alternative accommodation.
"We've been living at home without a toilet and a shower.
"We've been absolutely screwed."
The Railway Estate home is Ms Little's first, which is why she is fighting for what she believes is fair.
"I'm not going to take anything less than what I deserve because I've worked … (hard) to buy my first home," she said.
So far the music teacher and university student, along with her partner Chris Baker, have spent $6000 to commission independent reports to fight back against the insurer.
With the assistance of consumer advocate company Solve My Claim, Ms Little has escalated the issue to AFCA.
The young couple should have spent Christmas in their Townsville home, but will instead travel south to Brisbane to be with family and in a home where they have access to a working toilet and shower.