The NRRC said last week that the $700 million would only extend to about 1,100 buybacks, not the 2,000 homes reported a few months ago. About 6,500 people have signed up to help.
A letter from local mayors and MPs to Prime Minister Chris Minns said the program originally cost $1.5 billion but the previous coalition government decided to defer half of the funding before announcing the program publicly.
The letter urges Minns to release the deferred funds immediately so the program can help more people.
Graham’s friend and co-manager Susan Mills said she was also shocked to realize the property was not up for buyback.
“She couldn’t have withstood the strength of that water,” Mills said. “It was like a bomb went off.
“Their guitars were thrown against the kitchen bench… the walls were all caved in by the force of the falling water [the street].”
Mills said the day Graham died she contacted civilian rescuers and asked them to go to Graham’s house and check on her friend, but they told her they couldn’t go down the street because of the current be too strong
A detective called her that evening and informed her that police had found Graham’s body on the floor of her home when the water began to recede.
Mills said she read the buyback criteria before registering the property for the program and assumed she was eligible.
“There were shipping containers up in the trees… Somebody died because there was nobody down there to rescue them,” she said.
“It’s not a safe house. It gets flooded every time. And this year there was a loss of life. It’s not safe.”
When asked for an answer, a spokesman for Minns referred to the Prime Minister’s comments after the maps were released. At the time, he said he was willing to consider more funds, but wanted to first pass the money in hand to victims and see how much was left.
Meanwhile, separate flood maps released by Lismore City Council last week, based on the same flood study, define almost all of south Lismore as a high-risk area. The council now wants to ban any residential development there.
It states that the two sets of maps are different because, due to funding constraints, the NRRC has prioritized areas affected by more frequent flooding rather than those affected by extreme events, although the NRRC states that the flooding of 2022 was taken into account.
An NRRC spokesman said the program is targeting homes in areas where more frequent, higher and faster flooding is predicted, where the risk of death for residents and responders is greatest. The houses that were badly damaged or destroyed were given top priority.
To date, 308 buyback offers have been made, 150 have been accepted and two have been rejected.
South Lismore resident Kay Armor said her property also does not appear to be eligible for buyback, although about five feet of water flowed through the property and neighboring homes were washed off their foundations. Her partner and son had to cut a hole in the roof to get out.
“I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect a buyback after that,” she said. The family live in a trailer and are now reluctant to put their property up for sale.
“It doesn’t suit me to sell our house, even though I know what all that entails,” she said.
“[The buyback scheme] is a chance to get these homes out of this situation. After a few years, people get complacent and forget all about it, and it will happen again to another poor soul.”
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