NSW flood victims ‘kicked out’ of crisis accommodation to make way for tourists

Some NSW Northern Rivers families displaced by the floods say they are now being forced out of temporary accommodation spots to make way for tourists who booked Easter holidays there.

Residents in the coastal beach town of Evans Head have been making pleas on social media for out-of-towners to cancel any Easter holiday plans to visit the flood-ravaged region.

It follows recent reports of flood victims being forced to move out of Byron Bay to make way for holiday tourists.

Single mother-of-three Alysha Drylie told 9news.com.au her family was left homeless when the floods destroyed their rental property in Coraki on February 28.

“The first flood came through and the water was 2 metres high inside the house. We lost everything,” she said.

Alysha Drylie’s rental property was destroyed, all with all of their possessions. (Supplied: Alysha Drylie)

Ms Drylie and her three children, aged 9, 10 and 11, slept on the floor of a local church for days. 

After almost a week, a worker from Department of Communities and Justice (DCJ) Housing found the family a holiday rental unit to stay in at Evans Head.

The accommodation was being paid for through funding allocated to the housing department.

“We were able to stay there until March 31, when the real estate agent kicked us out because there were people coming for a holiday.”

DCJ Housing then found the family a cabin at Reflections Holiday Park in Evans Head.

Two days ago, the family were told they needed to move cabins within the caravan park because holiday makers had booked the cabin.

Ms Drylie said she was told her family could stay in their current cabin for three more days until April 7, but then they would need to leave.

Ms Drylie, pictured with her three children. The family do not know where they will go next. (Supplied: Alysha Drylie)

The single mum said she did not know where they would go next.

“There aren’t many rental properties around here. It is just heartbreaking,” she said.

Having to move so many times had been hard on her children after the trauma of losing their home in the floods, Ms Drylie said.

“The kids are a bit lost and really confused,” she said. 

“They don’t want to move any more, they are sick of moving.”

Ms Drylie said she hoped holiday makers would reconsider coming to Evans Head for Easter. 

“It would be nice if they could wait and delay their accommodation booking for another month, so people who are stuck without a house can have somewhere to sleep for the night,” Ms Drylie said.

Rental accommodation in the area was in short supply even before the floods. (Supplied: Alysha Drylie)

Both the town and beach at Evans Head had been pulverised by the floods, making it an unpleasant place to holiday at the moment anyway, she added.

“I don’t understand why people would want to holiday up here right now,” she said.

“The rivers and the beach are brown, it’s not clean water, it’s contaminated.

“Why would you want to go and fish? You can’t swim. You can’t go anywhere. The only place that you probably could go to is to a cafe to buy a coffee, if the power’s on.”

Om and Savita Jhorar also lost their home, near Woodburn, and all of their possessions in the flood.

The couple spent a night sleeping at a local high school before being offered a cabin at the Reflections Holiday Park.

Mr and Mrs Jhorar said they were told they could stay until March 21, however, on the morning of their wedding anniversary on March 17 they were given the news they needed to vacate their cabin for holiday makers.

“We had no place to go,” Mrs Jhorar said.

“The cleaning lady came and I was still packing.” 

The couple were given a cabin at Camp Koinonia, where temporary accommodation for the flood-affected has been established.

“Ultimately we were transferred to a very basic accommodation with no power points and long walk for toilets and showers while raining,” Mr Jhorar said.

“I am on medication that requires me to use the toilet several times at night. 

“It was so disappointing and disgusting that visitors travelling for fun are given priority over the disaster-affected people.”

9news.com.au has contacted Reflections Holiday Park for comment.

Om and Savita Jhorar's home near Woodburn was destroyed in the foods. The town in the Northern Rivers region of NSW, pictured here, was completely inundated.
Om and Savita Jhorar’s home near Woodburn was destroyed in the foods. The town in the Northern Rivers region of NSW, pictured here, was completely inundated. (Janie Barrett)

Emergency services have estimated that up to 20,000 people are still displaced by flooding on the North Coast of NSW.

Real estate agent Brad Dicinoski, who is the principal at Evans Head First National, said all of his staff had been worked off their feet trying to help everyone needing accommodation in the town.

But the lack of local supply meant it was impossible to house everyone.

“I think accommodation providers and perhaps the owners and holiday makers have been unfairly targeted to some extent,” Mr Dicinoski said.

“Even if all the accommodation that was in this town was made available, it still wouldn’t solve the problem.

“We’ve had a little assistance in resolving that issue, there’s been no coordinated effort.” 

Mr Dicinoski said most holiday guests who were due to come visit Evans Head over Easter had been understanding and offered to cancel.

“The monetary value of cancellations that we’ve made over the last four weeks would blow people’s minds,” he said.

“It’s only a small percentage of people who, for whatever reason, needed their booking; whether they’re coming to visit family that they haven’t seen for a year because of state lockdowns or who knows what their circumstances are. 

“But, even if those properties were available, it is still not going to solve these problems.”

Amid the pleas from locals for holiday makers to stay away, some families who booked Easter accommodation said they were trying to do the right thing but had been left confused by mixed messages.

One Sydney woman, who asked not to be named, said she had called the real estate agency where her holiday rental was booked and offered to cancel after seeing comments online about flood-affected local residents being displaced.

“I phoned to postpone or cancel my booking and it was declined as the owners wanted us the keep the booking,” the woman said.

“The real estate agents are only acting on the owner’s wishes as they have mortgages too. 

“If someone rang me saying they needed the house for someone displaced, I’d give it up in a heartbeat. But that’s not what’s happening. Not to me anyway. “

The woman said she had family in the area and wanted to help them with their flood recovery.

Flood clean-ups underway after devastating deluge

Speaking on Today this morning, Northern NSW Recovery Coordinator Mal Lanyon said it could take months or even years for the region, which has been rocked by two devastating floods in a month, to recover.

“The sheer scale and scope of the damage that was occasioned by the first unprecedented flood means that it is going to take a significant period.”

A lack of emergency housing for those who had lost everything was now causing real problems, he said.

“The areas around the Northern Rivers is not blessed with a lot of vacancies.”

Government agencies were working on providing “mid-term accommodation” while longer term solutions were being established, he said.

The Federal Government announced last month a $285 million “Temporary Housing Support package” which includes rental support, pods which allow people to stay on their property while they rebuild, temporary accommodation in motor homes and at recreation camps.

Contact reporter Emily McPherson at [email protected]

Reference-www.9news.com.au

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