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David Finnigan

How to end a community

Moderator | David Finnigan
Future generated by | Sam, Madeleine, Niki, Steven and David

Submission to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Managed Relocation due to Climate Impacts 2029.

Hi, my name’s Will Oldrey, and this is a submission to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Managed Relocation due to Climate Impacts. The date is… 18 December 2029. Merry Christmas.

I’m from Broulee, New South Wales. My family have lived in Eurobodalla Shire for just over a hundred years. There are some people who’ve been here for two hundred years. I was a teacher at St Peters Anglican college for thirty-one years, I retired four years ago.

Where we live, down by the bay, the big storms in 2027 just wiped the whole thing out. The wind took the roofs off half the houses, and then the water came up all the way as far as Elizabeth Drive. Those houses were gutted. 

So we lost everything, more or less. And then insurance said they won’t cover the cost of rebuilding – those properties are too exposed, the storms are going to keep coming, so, you’re on your own. 

So Bega council came up with a plan to build flood barriers down along the bay. To stop the waves coming up and into the town. Which was all looking good, they had the plans drawn up, there was a construction company getting ready to do the work. But then they brought in an environmental consultant from Sydney, who said, that’s going to make things worse. It won’t stop the floods, it’ll just push the storm surges to the north and south.

At this point the councillors were flailing and fighting, and we were ready to throw the whole lot of them out. 18 months since the floods and they’d done nothing. Then someone popped up and said, there’s actually a fund available from the NSW government.

They’ll buy up properties that were damaged – and the properties that are listed as ’at risk’ from future flooding. They’ll pay out the homeowners and the tenants. But the condition is, that you have to move to Sydney. 

So the promise was, they’ll try to keep us all together. If we all accept the buy-out at the same time, they’ll put us in the same block of flats or whatever, to try and keep the community in one place.

We considered it, because, what choice did we have? Our place was still a mess, we couldn’t get a loan to fix the damage, we were storing half our stuff in our daughter’s garage. We didn’t want to live in a flat, but what can you do?

But then there was a news report about this whole buyout scheme. The government’s not just buying flood-impacted houses – it’s actually part of a plan to buy up all the land in town. They want to resettle everyone from Moruya up to Ulladulla into the city, and then they’re going to turn this stretch of coast into a nature reserve.

They want to rewild the land, which is code for, they want to kick out the locals and release a bunch of wild animals. Dingoes, roos, devils, but no people. I mean, tourists from Canberra, sure, but the families who lived here for 200 years? No.

And they want to move us into the city – because we’re easier to control there. The NSW government wants to kill rural communities. Force us off our land and turn it into a national park. Of course they don’t call it that, they call it a ‘managed retreat from climate impacts’.

So when we heard about this, we said, no, we’re not going to go. We said to the Bega councillors, you want to buy us out? Well we’re going to vote you out. And I’m saying to you, as the Senate Committee, you’re not going to kill our community. We’re going to fight for our right to live on this land the way we always have.

Cause people are the land. We always have been, we always will be.

That’s all, thank you.