Ten weeks after the May floods, Hobart residents needing repairs to their homes may be waiting another six months as tradesmen struggle to get through the workload.
The deluge piled demand onto tradespeople already swamped by Hobart’s booming property and renovation market and the Royal Hobart Hospital redevelopment.
Now, all the plastering, painting, rewiring and carpeting needed to get families back into homes rendered uninhabitable may not be completed until the new year.
Carpet layer Matt Christian has been working until midnight many evenings trying to get through the work, and it just keeps coming.
His phone rings up to 10 times a day with people still trying to book his services.
“I’ve been getting to jobs at 10pm, just getting into it,” he said.
“We have been prioritising older people and families with kids. Start at 10pm and get some carpet down to help get kids off the floor and onto something nice.”
Mr Christian said he would like to see more people in the carpet-laying business and even suggests contractors from interstate should think about coming over.
“It’s that busy my brother-in-law called me about a job last week. I told him I’d fit it in on Christmas Day,” he said.
Master Builders’ Association president Lyndon Fenton said he had not seen anything like the current demand for the building trades.
“I’ve seen some ups and down in the industry and I’ve never seen it so busy,” he said.
“There are companies that have received over 1100 jobs [from the floods alone].”
And then there was the wind damage from storms either side of the deluge.
As of July 12, the Insurance Council of Australia said the estimated value for repairs for the May floods was $93 million.
More than 8200 claims have been lodged and 91 per cent of those are residential.
‘We’re lucky not to be at the showgrounds’
As floodwaters rose in her South Hobart home, Suzy Browne grabbed her children and dog and climbed onto the roof as the rain continued to pour down.
Back at ground level two months on, Ms Browne’s home has swollen floorboards, mouldy walls and a kitchen and bathroom that both need replacing.
She has had to rent elsewhere while she waits for repairs to be done, but does not expect normal home life to resume for another 12 months yet.
“I don’t know if the floorboards all need to be replaced, they’re Tas oak, and if they come up they might not be salvageable,” she said.
“But what if there’s mould under them? I don’t want my kids sleeping on something that might affect their health.”
Ms Browne told her 11-year-old daughter to think of it as an adventure, trying to defuse the trauma for a little girl who has lost most of what she owns.
Ms Browne tried to access some of the grants that have been offered but with a solid income and help through insurance coming somewhere in the future, she has been told that any grant would only be a loan.
For all the hoops she had to jump through to access the grant money, Ms Browne decided not to bother.
She said she would have loved a knock on the door from an alderman or an MP to ask if she was OK, and perhaps offer some advice.
There has never been a worse time to have to find an emergency rental, and Ms Browne acknowledges her good fortune, even as she stands in the middle of her wrecked house and few surviving boxed possessions.
“We could be at the showgrounds,” she said.
“We have a safe warm space to live. We’ve been lucky.”