Westport Flood Recovery

28 September 2021

Supportive friends, employers and the community are helping a Westport family get through after the flood on July 17.

Marc and Lindsey Gardiner note their families are in the UK. So they were not able to help them out when floodwater left their home yellow stickered.

The Gardiner Family

But, having lived and worked in Westport for eight years, they are very grateful for their friends and community who helped them through the past two months.

The family was able to stay with friends for a few weeks in a place where their young children thought they were on a “big holiday”, Lindsey says.

Their daughter Grace celebrated her sixth birthday in the following week and friends rallied around to ensure she still had a special day.

“We had to cancel the party at the pool, but our friends baked an amazing cake,” Lindsey says.

The family even had local firefighters and LandSAR volunteers helping them remove ruined furnishings from their home.

Rising water
Despite flood warnings for Westport on July 16, the Gardiners thought their house would be safe.

Their garage had previously flooded, but not their home.

“We thought that it would be fine again this time, but we were not so lucky,” Lindsey says.

When the first evacuation alert came through, she went to a friend’s house with their two children, Grace and Jaxon (3), while Marc stayed at their Gladstone Street home.

He evacuated at 11 pm as water surrounded the house.

When they returned two days later, the whole house and property were still full of water.

“There was about a foot of water throughout the whole house. It was muddy and stinky and was through everything.”

Still, Lindsey says, they were luckier than some.

“Some houses were inundated.”

Rising to the challenges
The Gardiners are relieved to have secured a rental while repairs are underway in their home. Among other things, it has allowed the family to reunite with their dog as their friends’ property was not fenced.

“He kept getting out, so we had to find somewhere else for him to stay.”

Both Marc and Lindsey are back at work and they say it is great that the Westport Flood Recovery Community Hub is open on Saturdays, allowing them to access information and advice.

“That is a big help, knowing that I don’t need to take time off work to talk to them,” Marc says

While they had signed up with the accommodation service at the Community Hub, they eventually found a rental home “through word of mouth”.

“We moved in a couple of days before the Covid lockdown.”

Marc says the Community Hub was able to help by putting them in touch with the Residential Advisory Service. The RAS has been helping them navigate through some insurance challenges which have arisen.

Their policy had specific clauses around making house-related payouts directly to their bank, rather than direct settlements. That has caused some additional stress about getting the repairs underway. Marc says they are still talking with their insurers about payment for repairs. He notes they will be looking more closely at their insurance policies in the future.

“It is frustrating when you see others have received cash settlements and are able to move forward with confidence.”

But he is pleased the repairs are now underway, having secured a builder already.

“The offer was there, so we took it.”

Following the process
Both Marc and Lindsey say they have very supportive employers. Lindsey is an oncology nurse, while Marc works for Mitre 10. Both received special leave, allowing them to focus on the initial job of clearing out their flooded home.

The flood ruined most of the Gardiners’ belongings. It took a long time to sort through and document everything properly for insurance, Lindsey says.

Marc was able to take down soaked internal wall linings to dry the house out as soon as possible./p>

“We waited until the assessor had been to inspect the damage, and then I went in and removed the wall lining up to the height they recommended.”

Despite some ongoing frustration, Marc is glad he contacted their insurers as soon as possible after the flooding to start their claims process.

“My advice is to get proactive, even if that is just leaving a message on their after-hours service and getting the file opened.”

The family are looking forward to moving back to their own home “hopefully by Christmas”.

Lindsey also hopes others affected by the floods can also access the support they need to recover.

“The sooner things get back to normal in Westport, the better.”