Doug Kelly, a long-term resident of the Lismore Tourist Caravan Park.
Doug Kelly, a long-term resident of the Lismore Tourist Caravan Park. Jacklyn Wagner

Van park resident says 'never again'

IN HIS 20 years living at the Lismore Tourist Caravan Park, Doug Kelly has only been caught out by a flood once - the one that swamped the park in May and destroyed about half the caravans on the site and the most of the residents' possessions.

It won't happen again.

“I said to (new park manager), next time I'll decide if it's time for me to go, not him, and I have three people ready to help me,” Mr Kelly said.

And Mr Kelly is not the only one saying 'never again' to May's disaster.

A report into the recovery effort following the floods, which caused about $41 million damage across the North Coast, recommends the park be moved, have a levee built around it, or be closed and its residents moved into permanent housing.

The recommendations are only a few of many in the report, which runs into hundreds of pages. Most either endorse or suggest tweaking the disaster recovery system used after the floods.

But in the case of the Lismore Tourist Caravan Park, where 50 people lost their possessions after being evacuated through swirling flood water, it warns the park poses an 'ongoing unacceptably high safety risk to long-term residents'.

“An incident with similar characteristics (to the May evacuation) is highly likely to be repeated unless decisive action is taken,” the report warns.

In the wake of the flood, Housing NSW had to provide temporary accommodation to 42 caravan park residents at a cost of nearly $21,000.

All 55 caravans, 10 of which were privately owned, and nine cabins in the park were damaged.

About half the 45 caravans were ruined by the flood, creating a damage bill in the park topping $110,000 - assuming they were replaced by second-hand caravans worth about $5000 each.

Lismore mayor and Flood Recovery Committee chairwoman Jenny Dowell said there were no quick solutions to the issue of the caravan park.

In the short term, the issues that led to the late evacuation of the park had been resolved. The report recommendations reflected the park's long-term future.

Cr Dowell said she was unhappy with the idea of putting a levee around the caravan park, which she said would push the water into another part of town. However, she suggested she could change her mind, saying she was happy to take advice.

She agreed finding another location for the park that provided comparable access to the city centre and Lismore Base Hospital would be hard.

Of the various options in the report, Mr Kelly said he preferred moving the park, but only if the new location offered the same easy access to the city and the hospital. As to where that should be, he said he hadn't a clue.



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