NSW government scheme to raise flood-prone homes puts lives at risk, Murwillumbah flood survivors say

When Gemma Martin’s Murwillumbah home was inundated with waist-deep water in 2017, she turned to the New South Wales government to help pay for it to be lifted out of danger.

Five years on, having survived yet another life-threatening flood, she is still waiting for news.

“It’s not a matter of not enough money, it’s a matter of not prioritizing human lives over other ventures,” she said.

a woman inside a room in a house holding a vacuum cleaner
Ms Martin has been quoted $45,000 to raise and restore her Murwillumbah home.(ABC News: Harriet Tatham)

Ms Martin is interested in having her home lifted on stilts through the state government’s voluntary house-raising scheme.

Under the program, the state funds two-thirds of the costs of a house to be raised above the maximum flood level.

There is also an option for residents to sell eligible homes to the government in order to move to higher ground.

This year, around $2 million was committed to these schemes for the entire state under the Department of Planning and Environment’s Floodplain Management Program.

Ms Martin has been quoted $45,000 to raise and restore her home. She said $2 million is inadequate.

“It’s pitiful considering the cost of raising and the cost of purchasing homes,” she said.

While the schemes exist, residents say the lack of available money makes it totally inaccessible.

And Ms Martin says she can’t live through another flood.

a woman standing at the entrance to her home
Ms Hallahan says she’s constantly fearful of losing everything again.(ABC News: Harriet Tatham)

Leesa Hallahan, who lives on the same South Murwillumbah street, is also waiting to find out if she will be helped to raise her home, or if the government is open to purchasing it.

She said the delay is putting lives at risk.

“Not just from the floods, but from people not being able to make it mentally or emotionally or financially,” she said.

“We’re living with the constant fear of losing everything again, or even potentially our lives, [or] your neighbours.”

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