Hell of a Christmas
SEVENTY-one year-old Patricia Rees is steeling herself for a miserable, fearful Christmas season inside her caravan at the notorious Tweed Waters Caravan Park in Banora Point.
Despite finding another site in a Chinderah park for her van, Tweed Shire councillors have blocked her from moving, citing new council rules which ban nine-foot-wide (2.7m) vans like hers from flood-prone parks.
Mrs Rees decided to speak out yesterday and show off her van, which she argues would take as much time to remove from a van park in times of flood as other caravans allowed by the council. She was backed by her son Darren, of West Tweed Heads, who has been angered by the unfairness of the council rules and wants his mum to stay close rather than move out of the shire.
Mr Rees said while the council claimed his mum's home was too big to be allowed in a flood-prone park the caravan is already in one.
And council documents show both the highest-ever-recorded and highest predicted flood levels in the Banora Point caravan park - where Mrs Rees currently lives - and the Chinderah Heritage Park - where she has found a new site - are the same. Mr Rees argues his mother would be in no more danger from a flood by moving, but she would be away from daily dangers in her current park where neighbouring vans have been torched in the dead of night.
Mrs Rees lived 16 years in the Banora Point park in happier days before moving away for three years in 1996.
She recalls when she returned in 1999 her entire street of mostly permanent residents decorated their homes for Christmas, setting up coloured lights.
The next year - Christmas 2000 - was "one of the loveliest Christmas's you could ever wish for". But from then on, life in the park became "just a living hell" as most permanent residents fled.
She blames the council for destroying a lot of lives in the park through new rules which forced some elderly people to walk away from their mobile homes, while the council was never able to stop deteriorating conditions in the park.
"Their attitude has been walk away from your van or go and live with family," she said. "But I don't believe in that. I'm independent".
Council officers have argued allowing people to move large vans into another floodprone park could put them risk of "losing everything" in a flood.