Victims still wait for compo
By ED SOUTHORN
"IT'S pathetic, these people are battlers but everyone has washed their hands of them."
Graeme Stevenson, of the Oasis residential estate, South Tweed, yesterday spoke out against Tweed Shire's delay of more than four months in settling a damages claim from the devastating June floods.
Mr Stevenson, an artist, and a group of four other Oasis residents, mostly renters, lost more than $400,000 worth of possessions when a landslide dumped tonnes of mud, water and rubbish from a hilltop cemetery and adjacent former garbage tip onto their homes.
The collapsed shire-owned site was never a designated dumping ground but had been used as one before the Oasis estate was built. The dump was later covered with topsoil.
When the torrential rains of late June hit, the hilltop collapsed, smelly mud and water rushed through Oasis properties at the bottom of the hill and mud and rubbish was left strewn across the estate.
The five residents whose homes were inundated were not covered by insurance and despite repeated efforts to gain compensation from Tweed Shire Council for the collapsed hilltop damage, they are still waiting.
Most have moved to other homes in the Oasis estate and one has moved elsewhere in the Tweed. According to Mr Stevenson, two have losses of more than $100,000. Mr Stevenson lost about $40,000 worth of art printers and furniture.
The displaced residents have engaged law firm Attwood Marshall to try to recover their losses from Tweed council and are set to launch legal action.
Shire governance officer Neil Baldwin last week did not reject the landslide victims' claims and said shire staff were sympathetic.
But Mr Baldwin said processing of the shire's insurance claim for the Falcon Way landslip had been held up and "we're caught in the middle".
"Because of the possible quantum of the claim it has been referred to the underwriter in London by our brokers in Sydney," Mr Baldwin said.
"We have to follow the rules.
"It's frustrating because we are waiting on formal advice as to the status of the claim."
Mr Baldwin said the shire had already spent $180,000 cleaning up flood devastation around the Oasis estate and this money could not be claimed back through insurance because of policy exclusions.
As well, the shire had provided "some financial assistance" to most of the affected Oasis residents towards relocation costs.
Mr Baldwin said the insurance situation was complicated because the landslide had occurred from a shire-owned cemetery which had also been used as an informal rubbish dump before the Falcon Way development was built.
Attwood Marshall Coolangatta partner Jeffrey Garrett said the damaged homes had remained locked up with mud-caked possessions.
He said that although the displaced residents had arranged accommodation elsewhere, no insurance assessment had yet been made of the damage.