By Kirra Grimes

MORE than six months on from the hail storm that ravaged the small seaside town of Cape Paterson, some residents are still living in temporary accommodation, unable to return to their homes and uncertain where they’ll be spending Christmas and New Year’s.
Approximately 60 homes were severely damaged in the freak weather event that struck on May 10, and while some occupants have since had repairs completed, others are still waiting it out in bed and breakfast and hotel accommodation, covered by insurance.
We spoke to a resident who’s been living in a local B&B since July 1, awaiting the replacement of internal ceilings, walls, carpet and electrics at her Cape Paterson home.
The resident says she and her family have been comfortable in their temporary lodgings, as their insurer did a good job in finding them a “home like environment” that would also accommodate their pets.
But the length of their stay has been longer than anticipated, seeing their expenses and stress levels rise with each passing day.
Inconveniences include juggling the coordination of repairs with full time work, and having to buy or frequently duck home to pick up items they didn’t think they’d need when they packed just enough to get through winter.
But these pale in comparison to the cloud of uncertainty hanging over their situation, says the long-term resident, who did not wish to be named.
She says her family and other displaced residents are dealing with the constant worry that they may suddenly be uprooted again, should their accommodation providers ask them to vacate their rooms for pre-existing bookings.
It’s already happened to an elderly Cape Paterson couple, forced to leave their temporary accommodation “every time there was a booking,” she says.
And the worry is only increasing as the busy summer tourist season approaches, with some residents growing so “frustrated” with the situation, they’ve decided to “take a pay out” from their insurers, rather than wait around to see what happens.
“There are a lot of families that won’t know where they’re going to be over the Christmas period, because all the accommodation around here gets booked out over summer,” the resident explained.
“I don’t think any of us will be homeless – because the insurance companies would not be allowed to let that happen – but we just don’t know where we’ll be. We could end up in Leongatha, Korumburra, anywhere…”
They’re not looking to blame anyone for the situation they find themselves in, believing their insurers are “doing their best” and that their local council “can’t make insurance companies work faster than they are”.
But they do want to make the wider community aware of the ongoing impacts of the storm, because at the moment, they feel “invisible”.
“There’s like this ‘bubble’ that everything just went back to normal. And that needs bursting because it didn’t.
“We’re not back in our homes yet and it’s been a very long and expensive journey for a lot of us.
“But the vast majority of people in the community wouldn’t have a clue.”
We asked a local accommodation provider if there was any validity to the Cape residents’ concerns about having to vacate their rooms over the Christmas/New Year period, and they confirmed that “if a prior booking exists, the guest may be moved to another room or to another accommodation provider”.
“Insurers book rooms on an availability basis with accommodation providers. This can mean that the length of the stay is not reflective of the length of time that they’re displaced,” a spokesperson said.
“On occasion, there can be gaps in stays due to room availability from prior bookings, but this is generally at the discretion of the insurance provider at the time of booking,” they said.