Months after devastating Lismore floods, 1,300 people are still unable to return to their homes

Three months after the devastating Lismore flood in late February, 1,300 people remain in emergency accommodation and less than 20 per cent of businesses are back in business.

Losing their home in the flood forced Nathan Rose, his partner Tina Ashcroft, who was heavily pregnant, and their seven children to camp in tents on a family property along the Wilsons River.

But when the second flood came a month later, and their baby was born prematurely, they moved into two trailers on the farm to accommodate them all.

“It’s been a wild ride,” Rose said.

A donated temporary house set up this week in the backyard of their Lismore home has been a turning point, three months since they became homeless.

Resilience NSW has confirmed that, as of this week, there are still over 1,300 people in emergency accommodation in Northern Rivers.

Teresa Blackley was renting in a trailer park in south Lismore when the flood peak hit.

a woman with glasses
Teresa Blackley has been living in a tent for nine weeks, but says she is one of the “lucky ones” to get a short-term rental.( ABC North Shore: Bronwyn Herbert)

He then moved between different campsites in the area 10 times, including at Coraki, downriver from Lismore, when the second major flood hit the region in late March.

“During the second flood I had a heart attack and had to be evacuated to Lismore Base Hospital,” she said.

But because she now lives in a rental house, not a caravan or tent, she thinks she’s “one of the lucky ones.”

Lismore City Council is now proposing a $400 million land swap, which will allow people to move from more flood-prone areas to higher ground.

Piles of rubble and debris in a Lismore street.
Piles of rubble and debris on a Lismore street after the 2022 floods.(ABC News: Gavin Coote)

Lismore Mayor Steve Krieg, whose family’s home and business were both flooded to the roof, believes people “smarter than he” should be making the big decisions about how to make a land swap work.

“What’s more expensive is continually rebuilding by doing the same things over and over again; we have to do things differently this time,” he said.

“No doubt about that”.

Lismore City Council estimates that there are now 250 shops open in the CBD and industrial estate in South Lismore.

An empty store front
Fewer than 20 per cent of shops have returned to operation in the Lismore CBD.(ABC News: Bronwyn Herbert)
A man poses by a fireplace.
Lismore Mayor Steve Krieg suffered damage to both his home and business in the February flood.(ABC North Shore: Bronwyn Herbert)

“Every day there’s progress, you know you need to look for green shoots in disasters like this and it’s really good to see those businesses slowly coming back to life,” Krieg said.

It has also been a difficult time for the owners.

Adrian Katschke, a retired insurance broker, has been working flat out to refurbish the two shops he owns in Lismore’s Strand Arcade.

A man poses inside a building.
Adrian Katschke has been hard at work remodeling the two stores he owns.(ABC North Shore: Bronwyn Herbert)

He said a tenant had just moved in and the ice cream chain that was renting out their curbside space wasn’t coming back.

“Unfortunately we lost our tenant, now we have to hang a sign on the wall that says open for rent and cross our fingers,” he said.

“I think everything takes time.

But green shoots are emerging.

The owners of the city’s main shopping center have confirmed that four of their major retailers will reopen in July, and the other 70 tenants are in various stages of processing insurance claims, government grant applications and refurbishment.

A man wearing a helmet poses outside a shopping center
Gary McConaghy says that many people rely on Lismore Square for work.(ABC North Shore: Bronwyn Herbert)

Gary McConaghy, CEO of McConaghy Properties, said it’s an important vote of confidence in the city to open as soon as possible.

Aware , updated

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