‘Exhausted’ Lismore marks a year since traumatic floods


With the devastating Lismore floods still imprinted on the NSW city and its 45,000 residents, locals will pause for the Gathering of Reflection and Healing.

Five lives were lost and more than 3000 homes were damaged or destroyed in the Northern Rivers city on February 28, 2022, when a month of record rainfall lifted the Wilsons River to a new high of 14.4m.

The memorial on Tuesday will be preceded by a private ceremony to acknowledge the Herculean effort of dinghy owners who ferried hundreds of people from rooftops to safety.

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The event kicks off three weeks of events in the city, including a music festival in the CBD this weekend and a celebrity cricket match on March 11.

About 60 per cent of businesses have returned to the CBD, but the relocation of schools means hundreds of their customers have gone.

Flooding is seen at Simes Bridge in Lismore. Credit: JASON O’BRIEN/AAPIMAGE

“Initially everyone was pumped up on adrenaline,” Ella Buckland, whose house was inundated with 1.5m of water, told AAP.

“And then you had little wins, like the coffee shop coming back and everyone was really excited and supportive and kind, like cuddling people who you didn’t know.

“Now everyone is just exhausted.”

Harper Dalton said the emotions that rose up as the one-year anniversary approached reminded her how much trauma she and friends had experienced.

“Most of us are flood-impacted, so having that type of community support is really helpful,” she told AAP.

But Dalton, who is still waiting for an answer on whether the government will buy her home back or offer money to raise it, thought she would be further down the recovery track.

“I really thought I’d have some indication of what I’ll be offered by 12 months on from the worst flood in Australian history,” she said.

“I’m pretty disappointed and feeling greater desperation as more time goes on, because it could technically flood next week or next month and nothing’s changed.”

Lismore SES Members prepare for possible flooding in Northern New South Wales. Credit: JASON O’BRIEN/AAPIMAGE

Premier Dominic Perrottet and Opposition leader Chris Minns are both expected to attend the memorial.

Amid criticism for the speed of the home buyback, Perrottet on Monday noted the mammoth task facing authorities and the community.

“It will be a long journey ahead. It will be a challenge and we will stand with those communities have we had as we have over the last 12 months,” he said.

Minns said it would be a tough day for residents impacted by the floods but all of NSW was committed to continuing the rebuild of the Northern Rivers.

“One year on from the floods that devastated the Northern Rivers we are reminded of your resilience, your courage, your community spirit.

“From the tinnie army, to the locals who put their own lives in danger to save others, to our emergency services,” Minns said ahead of his visit to Lismore..

The first home buyback offers were issued on February 21, with all 250 offers expected to be issued by April.

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