Heartbreak and hope: Esk Valley locals react to buyouts

Thu, Jun 1

Esk Valley locals say there's still a long road ahead after the Government's announcement of voluntary buyouts for the most at-risk properties following Cyclone Gabrielle.

1News visited residents in the region, some of whom had lost everything, as they received the email about which risk assessment category their homes would be in.

While today's announcements marked some progress, most say there are still big decisions to come. Many still faced gutted houses, paddocks that used to be homes, and gardens piled with junk, as they received news of their property's fate.

Luke O'Connell watched his kitchen being swept nearly 1km away by floodwaters.

He told 1News that he felt a sense of relief to get clarity after his property has been classified as high risk. People with Category 3 properties were considered at a high risk of being affected by future extreme weather and would be offered a voluntary buyout.

"Category 3 means for me personally that we can just make a plan now — rather than sitting in limbo, we know what we can and can't do with our property."

However, he was still awaiting news about how much he would be paid out for his ruined land. "I assume the first one's going to be a lowball, but we'll see."

Properties classified as Category 1 can rebuild with minimal restrictions, while Category 2 properties need to wait for council to improve protections before they can rebuild.

As a result, Eskdale resident Lynn Noanoa didn't get the answer she was hoping for today after her property was classified as having manageable risk — Category 2.

Multiple community meetings are happening across the region tonight as homeowners come to grips with their property categorisations and voluntary buyouts.

"Sigh… what can you do? You're against it all. We just want our lives back," she said.

"One would have been let's go. Two means more waiting."

Another resident with a Category 2 property told 1News that they also didn't get the news they wanted: "We were hoping for Category 1, so we could start to build."

O'Connell said time was ticking for flooded residents to set out their next steps in life. He is already looking for a new home.

"They've lost six months already, most of them have lost everything, and I'm hoping this is the start of some more definitive answers in the next few months."


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