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Residents claim some insurance companies 'dragging their feet' six months after Rochester flooding

Brett Kyne and his family have been living in caravans in their backyard since the October floods. (ABC Central Victoria: Shannon Schubert)

The dining room, the laundry, and the bathroom have been moved outside at the Kyne house. 

It's a DIY set-up that's made a difficult situation a bit more liveable, and they're quite impressed with the results. 

There's hot water outside and the shed has been transformed into a living room.

The Kynes' makeshift living room. (ABC Central Victoria: Shannon Schubert)

Brett Kyne is grateful they have two caravans between the five of them, rather than one. 

"We went and purchased two caravans: one for Mum and Dad, and one for the kids," he says.

"Five in one van just wasn't going to work at all." 

The family of five has two caravans and has set up outside facilities for a makeshift bathroom, laundry, and dining area. (ABC Central Victoria: Shannon Schubert)

Hundreds of Rochester residents are living in caravans while they're stuck in limbo waiting for their flood-damaged houses to be rebuilt. 

The shell of their gutted houses could remain empty for another 12–18 months. 

The Kyne family home remains gutted, with no floors and walls, since it was stripped out after the flood. (ABC Central Victoria: Shannon Schubert)

"We're all just waiting for work to be done. Everything's been stripped out. We're playing the waiting game," Mr Kyne says.

"Our insurance company is talking about September … realistically if I'm back in by Easter next year, I'll be satisfied with that."

As long as they've got the trampoline and the TV, the kids are happy. 

Blake, Heath and Sophie Kyne enjoy jumping on the trampoline, but admit the caravan is cramped with the three of them. (ABC Central Victoria: Shannon Schubert)

But Mr Kyne admits living in a caravan is "shithouse". 

"Winter is coming, so it's going to get cold. I need to put a few heaters in the vans for us and the kids," he says.

"Life goes on and we're still working … just the living arrangements have changed." 

More support needed, says council

The disaster has taken its toll on the community. 

As the reality of delays and the financial impacts sink in, the demand on the town's limited mental health services is increasing. 

Campaspe Shire Mayor Rob Amoss says the council needs more funding from the state government to help with flood recovery. (ABC Central Victoria: Tyrone Dalton)

"The town of Rochester is still hurting," says Campaspe Shire Council Mayor Rob Amoss. 

"The town is coming back and it's going to come back better [but], in the short term, there is still a lot of pain and frustration people are going through.

"There are still many houses empty." 

Authorities have no official recorded number for how many Rochester houses flooded.

Residents estimate at least 800 homes were inundated, with council estimating it's around 1,000. 

Rochester experienced its worst flood in history on October 15, 2022. (ABC News)

The Campaspe Shire Council says 2,500 houses across the shire flooded. 

Mr Amoss says the council needs more funding for mental health support and flood recovery services. 

He says there are plans to set up a dedicated flood recovery hub in a few months. 

"We're now six months into this flood recovery and we need more and we need it soon," Mr Amoss says.

"There are many businesses that are open, but because only around 50 per cent of residents are living here, people are not spending money in those businesses.

"The vibe is not back in town."

It took months for some businesses to reopen and now some are struggling to claim state government relief grants. (ABC Central Victoria: Sarah Lawrence)

A state government spokesperson says every single flood-affected Victorian council has been given the funds they need. 

"The Campaspe Shire Council has been supported every step of the way in their recovery with $2.16 million provided to fix state-owned roads and $1.5 million directly to the Council for clean-up activities," the spokesperson said.

"Millions more has gone directly to the community for mental health and housing support."

They also say the government will continue to help the community recover. 

"We're in regular contact with the community leaders of Rochester who have made their needs around housing, health, and support services clear," they said.

Some residents say they were left stranded by emergency services and had to conduct their own rescues. (ABC News)

'People are not going to live through this again'

The chair of the community flood recovery committee, Leigh Wilson, says the resilient community can only take so much. 

"The reality is, moving back into your home or back into your business is only a part of recovery. There's also the wellbeing, the mental health, and the broader community," Mr Wilson says.

"If this community goes through something like this again, I'd hate to see what it does to the fabric of this community." 

Residents have also called for flood mitigation works to begin immediately at Lake Eppalock to prevent another devastating flood event. 

A parliamentary inquiry into Victoria's floods is looking into the impact, causes, resources, and flood mitigation strategies. 

Residents have until May 8 to make a written submission with plans to hold public hearings in flood-affected regions. 

Leigh Wilson was sandbagging his wife's shop on October 15 when floodwater rose rapidly. (ABC Central Victoria: Tyrone Dalton)

"After 2011, we didn't think anything like this would happen again in our life," Mr Wilson says.

"We now know at a local level something has to happen."

There are more than 100 residents living at the Elmore Events Centre. 

They don't know where they will go, once the state government stops providing the flood-relief accommodation in August.

Rochester's streets are lined with caravans. (ABC Central Victoria: Shannon Schubert)

Residents angry at lack of flood mitigation works 

After the 2011 flood rocked the community, a study was conducted but no flood mitigation works were done. 

Mayor Rob Amoss says the council is in conversation with the state government about what can be done. 

"Almost immediately after the floods, we talked to them about doing a study on Lake Eppalock to see what works could be done to help mitigate the impacts of flood in the future," he says.

He says the flood study completed after the 2011 flood and a draft study of Echuca need to be updated with the latest flood information.

"That should hopefully be out around September this year," Mr Amoss says.

"There is a lot of work being done on the studies, then flood plans can be put in place."

John Atley's Rochester house has walls, but work has stalled due to insurance issues. (ABC Central Victoria: Shannon Schubert)

At John Atley's Rochester house, he has floors and walls but work has stopped while he works through insurance disputes. 

"The majority of the houses are just in frames. There's no sign of work, they're still working through insurance. There are a lot of insurance companies dragging their feet," he says.

"There are people who haven't even been stripped out. So they're not even at stage one."

He describes the town as "sad" living in caravans and sheds going into winter.

He says flood mitigation works are urgent — to make sure the town doesn't live through another devastating flood. 

"We have to fix Lake Eppalock. We need to make sure this doesn't happen again," he says.

"Something has to be done. People are not going to live through this again."

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