As Kathy and John Forbert enter their fourth winter in a cabin, they look desperately over their property in Yory, near the town of Cobargo in southeastern New South Wales.
When the house was reduced to ashes in the 2019-2020 Black Summer wildfires, they were covered by insurance.
However, in an ill-fated deal with a local builder, the couple lost everything for the second time.
The building company Atomic 6, who they hired to rebuild their home, was responsible for what NSW Fair Trading said was “defective, incomplete and inadequate building work done without insurance from the NSW Homebuilding Compensation Fund. was revoked its contractor license in March 2022 in response to complaints about
They have lost their life reserves, have no insurance to cover their failed rebuilds, and have no hope of recovering their losses from Atomic 6.
The cabin the Forberts have called home for the past few years overlooks the partially built foundation and rotting pallets of building materials where their home should be.
Kathy and John find it painfully clear that they do not meet the criteria for government assistance.
“We’ve emailed everyone from the mayor to the prime minister, and nobody seems to be able to do anything for us,” Kathy said.
“It looks like it fell through the cracks and that’s it.”
With millions of dollars pouring into communities and businesses affected by the Black Summer wildfires, the Forberts found themselves in a gray area.
As victims of incomplete wildfire reconstruction, they are ineligible for natural disaster relief from the federal government.
“If we were uninsured, unemployed, and had no money in the bank, we would meet the criteria,” Kathy said.
“Why were we worried about trying to help ourselves and insure ourselves?”
Federal funds are now ‘fully allocated’
In response to questions from ABC, the federal government’s National Emergency Management Agency said in a statement that the Australian government will provide more than $2 billion in assistance to communities affected by the bushfires in 2019-2020. It also provides funding for the Black Summer Forest Fire Reconstruction Program. It is currently fully allocated and no further funding is planned.
The agency also said, ‘New South Wales bushfire victims should seek advice from the New South Wales Fair Trade Commission if they are involved in a home building dispute as homeowners or licensed contractors. Or you can file a complaint,” he said.
Kathy said Fair Trading, New South Wales, is investigating their situation, but the Forberts have been informed that they have no money to recover from Atomic 6.
Rebuild the half-baked situation ‘worse than wildfires’
With a mixture of hope and fear, Sue De Marco and Gordon Sanger walk through a half-built house near Verona.
Designed with a roof and exterior walls covered with soil and vegetation, this innovative prefabricated house was designed by international firm Green Magic Homes and is the first in Australia to receive a construction certificate (approval to begin construction). It’s a project.
However, after an April 2022 inspection, the Vega Valley Shire Council told Sue and Gordon that the work had been done by contractors without the critical inspections required, and that many of the inspections identified recommended that work be halted until the problem is resolved.
The city council clarified to ABC that while this is not a “work stoppage order”, certain corrective actions must be taken before construction can proceed.
On the other hand, the Instagrammable house will deteriorate in front of your eyes. The flooded floor has openwork marks on the baseboards, and plaster has fallen from the ceiling.
“We handed over $240,000 and were left elated and dry,” Sue says.
The Australian building contractor contracted by Sue and Gordon, operating under the name Green Magic Homes Australia, had its contractor license revoked by New South Wales Fair Trading in June 2022. Gordon said the couple were left at a loss. than forest fires. ”
In November 2022, architect Alex Greig, the Australian distributor of Green Magic Homes, traveled to Australia to visit Gordon and Sue’s site and see for themselves the construction flaws. flew to
He promises to fix the flaws and try to get Gordon and Sue to move in “early in the new year.”
But he later explained that the emerging global company was suffering from cash flow pressure due to contract losses following media reports of Sue and Gordon’s defective manufacturing.
In February 2023, Green Magic Homes (USA) said in a statement to ABC that the last contact with Green Magic Homes Australia’s management was when problems began in mid-2022. and further attempts to contact them had failed.
They further stated that Green Magic Homes (US) was “on the verge of closing” and was in “difficult financial situation” due to the reputational damage caused by the revocation of Green Magic Homes Australia’s contractor license. ‘, he added.
Crowdfunding and “Stay true to your beliefs”
With no money left to finish the building on their own, Sue and Gordon turned to crowdfunding to survive their daily struggles to stay positive.
Sue says she still has faith that one day she will have a house she can move into.
“You have to, or you’re going to be in big trouble, and I definitely don’t want to go there,” Sue says.
Atomic 6 and Green Magic Homes Australia did not respond to ABC’s requests for comment.
https://www.abc.net.au/news/2023-06-03/defective-bushfire-rebuild-victims-plead-for-government-support/102413062 Victims of faulty wildfire reconstruction plead for federal help, face fourth winter homeless