STILL WAITING: Lee Jacques, Regan McGrigor and Makenzy McGrigor at the front of their Sarina Range home.
STILL WAITING: Lee Jacques, Regan McGrigor and Makenzy McGrigor at the front of their Sarina Range home. Tara Cassidy

Family's home 'left to rot' after Debbie

A SARINA Range family will spend Christmas in a campervan in their backyard, with their cyclone-ravaged home no closer to being fixed than it was eight months ago.

And insurer RACQ says there are still many in the Mackay region in the same boat, admitting that out-of-town assessors with a lack of knowledge about fixing cyclone-damaged Queenslanders has led to errors in assessing claims.

In March, Cyclone Debbie sent metres of water gushing through Lee Jacques' and Regan McGrigor's two-storey house, stripping it of everything inside, and they say "little has been done" to fix it since.

The couple says the whole job was estimated to be complete by RACQ Insurance within five to six months, yet now eight months on, no physical work has even started, let alone finished.

They say they have experienced a number of issues with the insurance company, which took months to first visit, so they could start drying out the home and remove wet mouldy furniture, but also allegedly missed more than $90,000 of works in their initial scope.

"They sent us the paperwork and had missed the entire bottom floor of the house, the roof and a big part of the second floor," Mr Jacques, a Hay Point carpenter, claimed.

"Since, we've had maybe three or four more times that we've had to send it back where they've literally missed work that they did themselves, cupboards and ceilings that their staff removed yet they hadn't included to complete.

"We're meant to trust these people to rebuild our home, and right now it feels like we have to check their every move. We've been through enough."

According to an RACQ spokeswoman, Mr Jacques and Ms McGrigor aren't the only home owners that have seen a noticeable difference between the assessor's scope and the actual damage to their house, but said they are working on the issue.


"With Cyclone Debbie the insurance council actually put out a release on this as it has been quite difficult as there are not a lot of assessors in the needed areas," the spokeswoman told the Mercury.

"So the ones that are doing it are being flown in from around the state and country and there are some who weren't quite familiar with cyclone damage to old Queensland homes.

"In a few instances, a couple of assessors had to go out a few times to make sure they got the scope of works one hundred per cent accurate."

The Sarina Range couple claimed that as well as the missed damages, the initial clean they were asked by RACQ to sign off on had debris left still scattered throughout the whole property, including a pool table in the next paddock and an enormous stack of wet furniture on their driveway.

They say the house has been left to sit untouched for so long that the damage is now far worse, including their entire kitchen, drawers being stretched, rusted and broken from the wood expanding and paint throughout the whole house now cracked and walls filled with mould.

"Worse yet, every builder that has come to see the house was left shocked because they were only expecting minimal damage based off what the assessor's notes were," Mr Jacques claimed.

"He wrote that only 130mm of water had come in, yet we had metres and metres, it was severe, some of the builders have said this was the worst house they have seen to date.


"It's just devastating, a ridiculous amount of undue stress on top of what we've already had to go through. This is their job so you would think they'd have it down pat by now.

"We just want to be back in our home and it's not happening, and we worry if this is what we are going through, how many other families are having the same experience? We wouldn't be alone."

According to RACQ, in fact 6200 Cyclone Debbie claims have been made to them, with about 86 per cent of cases having been seen to.

The spokeswoman said many severe cases, like Mr Jacques' and Ms McGrigor's home, were still under way due to the amount of work needed and the amount of time it would take to restore them to their former state.

"We are working with our members on their claims to get them back into their homes and back to their normal lives as soon as possible," she said.

"Of outstanding jobs there are a really significant amount of damages with almost full home rebuilds or home renovations in order.

"Those take some time to do."

The family of six, with one child having moved out, were living in a small rental in Sarina while their home was being assessed for repairs, their rent covered by RACQ.

Because of the added 45 minutes travel with the range closure, the couple asked to have the remaining rental funds be paid out to them in order to help them purchase a campervan that they could live on at the property instead, and start the clean-up themselves, eagerly awaiting when they will be able to return to their home.

RACQ agreed and the family have moved back to the Sarina Range in their van in recent days.

They were hoping to be back under their own roof before Christmas but know now that won't be possible, nor the new estimated finish time of February.

"No materials have been ordered, nothing's started so we wonder how long this is really going to take, how long are we going to be living like this?" Ms McGrigor asked.

"We just want our lives back, is that too much to ask?"

Do you have a similar insurance horror story? Email us at or phone the reporter on 0419036731.

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