IN LIMBO: Greenhills Caravan Park owners Jamie, Jan and Graeme Bolton ponder the future after their insurer rejected their claim following the recent flood.
IN LIMBO: Greenhills Caravan Park owners Jamie, Jan and Graeme Bolton ponder the future after their insurer rejected their claim following the recent flood. Nikki Todd

No hope for caravan park

THE owners of Greenhills Caravan Park are stuck in limbo, with nowhere to go, after their insurer rejected their application for recompense.

The park - which was home to about 100 residents - was destroyed in the early hours of March 31 when floodwater inundated South Murwillumbah.

One long-term resident of the park died in the deluge, while a further 13 residents, including children, had to be rescued after they were left stranded, clinging to light poles and on the roofs of their vans as the swirling waters deepened.

Flood heroes save 13 in swirling waters

 

John Lawrence, Shyam Bryan and Johnny Norris helped rescue 15 people from the flooded Greenhills Caravan Park in South Murwillumbah.
John Lawrence, Shyam Bryan and Johnny Norris helped rescue 13 people from the flooded Greenhills Caravan Park in South Murwillumbah. Nikki Todd

All that's left is the shattered remains of a once-thriving park, with smashed-up vans and debris scattered across the site, while many of the former residents remain homeless.

Jan and Graeme Bolton, who bought the business 10 years ago, said they did not know where to go after their insurer, CGU Insurance, said they were not covered for a flood.

"CGU are not paying a cent," Mrs Bolton said.

"We have been insured with them for nearly 10 years - we paid $9500 this year in insurance - but we were were told officially on Thursday (May 4), because it was a flood - nought.

"All of our household goods, vans... we have lost everything downstairs. We just don't know which way to turn."

Mrs Bolton said quotes indicated it would cost them at least $80,000 just to get the power repaired, while a further $100,000 would be needed to replace the destroyed amenities block.

"Do we take a loan, do we start rebuilding? What do we do?" Mrs Bolton said.

"We own the park. We were told to reopen it would take $1.2 million but to do half of it would be about $600,000.

"We are just in limbo, we don't know which way to go. We have had not a cent for the last five weeks. We'd like to sell up and get out but who is going to want it in a flood zone?"

Mr Bolton said the insurer had "wiped us completely".

"There is no future," he said. "We can't afford to get it up and running again.

"Eventually we will have to sell, but what would we get for it? You can't sell it as a going concern. You'd probably have to pay someone to take everything out of here."

'Mr Bolton said the park had not flooded in the 10 years they'd owned it and questioned whether the collapse of nearby Tweed Valley Way - in front of the Poinciana Motel, which also remains closed - had contributed to the deluge in his park.

 

A large section of Tweed Valley Way was washed away
A large section of Tweed Valley Way was washed away in front of the Poinciana Motel, close to Greenhills Caravan Park. Toni Kelly Fleeton

But Tweed Shire Council denied the road was to blame.

"The road formation is believed to have collapsed due to the water overtopping the roadway embankment and scouring out the downstream side until the bank lost strength and could no longer handle the load placed on it by the floodwaters," a representative said.

"The embankment has safely withstood previous floods and was previously the Pacific Hwy, so there were no concerns about its stability prior to the flood.

"The embankment failure did not significantly contribute to the peak level of the flood, as it had been overtopping for several hours prior.

"By evening the South Murwillumbah levee had overtopped in several areas and the South Murwillumbah basin filled rapidly."

The Boltons said with the right support, they could quickly reopen and alleviate the homeless crisis.

 

Philip Duncan, who owns a self-suffiicent bus, is the only remaining resident at Greenhills Caravan Park after the flood devastated the park.
Philip Duncan, who owns a self-suffiicent bus, is the only remaining resident at Greenhills Caravan Park after the flood devastated the park. Nikki Todd

'These people deserve medals'

Meanwhile, grey nomad Philip Duncan, the only remaining resident at Greenhills Caravan Park, said the Bolton family should be recognised for their efforts to support their residents.

Despite moving his camper bus to higher ground during the flood, Mr Duncan's home was inundated and he had to escape out a window and swim for his life.

A retired corporate lawyer, Mr Duncan said he was loathe to leave the park, preferring to remain and help the Bolton family.

"I've chosen to stay because of the crisis," he said.

Mr Duncan said the Boltons deserved medals.

"They did the right thing. They sent (the residents) to higher and safer ground (at the art gallery) but they stayed here themselves to protect other people," he said. "I was in New Orleans when Katrina came through and I saw the discrimination and the prejudice and the horror of that situation first hand. Here is no different.

"South Murwillumbah and this area in particular, there was no warning, there was no council support, the SES did appear and mumbled a few things to a few people and left. Those people who could go, left. Those people who had lived here for a long time had no option but stay.

"The gentleman who lost his life had no option, he had to stay. The owners had no option, they had to stay in their home and they have lived here for a long time. The tragedy is people want to come back, we have a community of people who are displaced.

"Everybody is talking about the homeless in this area. Here is a facility that could immediately be opened with $100,000 worth of support from government or anybody."

 

A white pantec truck is smashed to pieces under the railway culvert at Green Hills on the Tweed Valley Way at Green Hills after heavy flooding washed around 25 cars off the road surface during Thursday nights rain deluge.Photo: Scott Powick Daily News
A truck is smashed to pieces under the railway culvert at Greenhills on the Tweed Valley Way after the flood. SCOTT POWICK