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Cleaning up after the Lismore floods: Spotlight on the conveyancing community

Cleaning up after the Lismore floods: Spotlight on the conveyancing community

The Lismore floods brought devastation and loss, but the community is banding together.

The north-eastern NSW town of Lismore has been left with a big clean-up operation following “once-in-a-generation” flooding. Here, we look at how it’s affected the local conveyancing industry.

At about 4am on Friday 31 March 2017, the levee standing between Lismore and the Wilsons River was breached, with the emergency siren sounding and residents ordered to evacuate immediately.

According to reports, 576 millimetres of rain fell over the Wilsons River valley during the 36 hours leading up to the breach. The deluge followed ex-tropical cyclone Debbie, a category four storm which wreaked havoc across Queensland and New South Wales.

The storm claimed eight lives, with the Insurance Council of Australia warning that the damage bill could run into billions of dollars. Queensland’s Treasurer said the state’s budget is expected to take a $1.5 billion hit.

Lismore’s CBD was submerged by up to 3.5 metres of water during the flooding; some business owners told reporters that they may never recover and might shut for good. Mayor Isaac Smith responded by encouraging business owners to “take it one step at a time”, vowing to investigate what assistance would be available from state and federal governments and thanking the volunteers on the ground.

Trish Tindall of Far North Coast Conveyancing in Lismore is one of those businesses facing a clean-up. She says, “SES and Rural Fire Services did an immense job… without these services the clean-up would have felt colossal.” The lower level of her office was flooded with between 1 to 1.5 metres of water during the ordeal, but she says her losses were luckily limited to “furniture, furnishings and miscellaneous items, nothing that can’t be replaced.”

The response of the local community was amazing, Trish says. “The other conveyancers in Lismore are not only colleagues, but friends. One of the other conveyancers contacted me on Facebook, checking in and offering to come down and help with the clean-up. Another offered us office space in which we could work. Luckily, we had plenty of help.” Staff and clients assisted, as well as one of the local real estate agents.

While settlements were disrupted on the Friday, Monday morning returned to settlements as usual, with one staff member driving to nearby Ballina to collect cheques since the banks in Lismore hadn’t reopened. Trish says, “It was challenging at times, but that’s conveyancing.”

The Lismore office of Edmonds Conveyancing was a little harder hit. Principal Amanda Edmonds says while someone from her office saved “all hard copies of files and two computers”, the balance of the office equipment and furniture was destroyed. Her Lismore conveyancing team has temporarily relocated to Ballina, but Amanda is counting her blessings: “It’s a little cosy in Ballina, but all-in-all we fared well compared to so many businesses, so we can’t complain.”

Amanda says that Lismore Chamber of Commerce has been fantastic with its assistance and information and Lismore City Council has made a great effort with the clean-up. “We’re also very fortunate to have a fantastic and understanding landlord who’s quickly arranged for carpets to be replaced, walls to be removed, replaced and repainted and electricity to be fixed.”

People were generally understanding about settlements and exchanges, and thankfully PEXA settlements could proceed as normal. Amanda adds, “In situations like this, which don’t happen often thank goodness, PEXA settlements could proceed as scheduled. In this case, most banks in Lismore were out of action and mail and DX were not getting delivered so many paper settlements were delayed.”

For those affected by tropical cyclone Debbie and requiring assistance, information can be found here.

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