Benita Holroyd is living in a caravan after council lifted her house in accordance with its flood plain policy for houses outside the levee and at risk. The house and garden have been left in a mess.
Benita Holroyd is living in a caravan after council lifted her house in accordance with its flood plain policy for houses outside the levee and at risk. The house and garden have been left in a mess.

House wreck for Christmas

CHRISTMAS 2009 promised to be a great family get-together for South Grafton woman Benita Holroyd and her seven children.

Mrs Holroyd had been out of her family home in Butters Lane and living in a caravan since October as workers raised her house out of range of floodwaters that could invade her home in a one-in-100-year flood.

The house had become susceptible to floods since the construction of the South Grafton levee. Clarence Valley Council and the NSW Government together provided the funding to raise the building.

Last Monday she received the good news that a council inspector had cleared her house and she was able to move back in.

It was a disappointing homecoming.

Instead of returning to her home now safely out of reach of floods, she found a wreck.

Cracks more than 2cm wide have been left in the floor of several rooms after workers raised the house.Inside the house there are 2cm cracks in the floor in the sunroom, two bedrooms, verandah, old laundry and lounge room, and the water now pours through the ceiling when it rains.

The walls and furniture were covered in mud and the water and gas had not been connected.

“I don’t know how they think mum can move back in when the water and gas have not been connected,” said Mrs Holroyd’s son, Bill.

“It looks like the builders were using the furniture to stand on when they were working inside,” he said.

The nuts holding the steps going up to the front and side landings were loose and several of the steps moved when stepped on.

And Mrs Holroyd, a proud gardener, found her yard in a similar state to the house.

Continued use of heavy machinery in the yard had packed down the soil and lumps of concrete washed from trucks littered the yard.

She claimed many of her plants had been destroyed and the front gate and posts had been pushed so far out of alignment the gates no longer latched.

Altogether, Mrs Holroyd and her son put together a list of 32 grievances they have with the state of the house and yard after the work was completed.

And to make matters worse, council notified her that it would end the hire arrangement for a caravan and portable toilet and remove them on December 23.

“You can only unlock the front door by standing on the second step down,” Mr Holroyd said.

The Holroyds worry that this gap between the railings on the entrance ramp could be dangerous to young children.“If you stand on the landing and open the screen door it swings out towards you and keeps you away from the doorway.

“All they did was get the old door and turn it over so it could open outwards.”

All this was news to council deputy general manager Rob Donges.

When The Daily Examiner spoke to him he said he was satisfied that the council’s compliance inspector had passed the building.

He was surprised that Mrs Holroyd claimed that the gas and water had not been connected.

He said he would look into the claims, but said there was little he could do in the day before Christmas.

He said the council compiled a dilapidation report that compared the state of buildings before and after work had been done on them.

“I’m not sure if a dilapidation report was done on this building,” he said.

Mr Donges said council staff would have a look at it when they get back to work on January 4.

And he could not promise that Mrs Holroyd would be able to continue to use the leased caravan over the Christmas period.

“I can’t make a decision on that without looking into it,” Mr Donges said.

“They need to tell us the problems they’ve got so the staff here can deal with their grievances.”

But all this was too late for Mrs Holroyd.

Her dream of having her family at home for Christmas had been shattered.

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