It’s been three years since the Black Summer bushfires, but Sue DeMarco and Gordon Sanger still live in a demountable on their Cobargo property.
“It’s a box, a sardine can with windows,” Sue said.
“I do like the windows, they’re quite nice, but I’m not a fan of the box itself.
“It’s got steel walls so you feel like you’re in a freezer.
“I hate it, I just want to be in our house that we paid for fair and square. It’s like my life’s shrunk and shrunk and shrunk, and I just want to get back to something half decent.”
After the couple was burnt out, they tried to put a positive spin on the situation.
They’d dreamed of turning the property they’d moved to from Dubbo into a self-sufficient paradise.
When they found Green Magic Homes, a company that promised to provide eco-friendly modular homes, they jumped at the opportunity and paid their deposit.
Progress was slow – but that was the case for many bushfire victims. And the company director, Glenn Stevenson, was reassuring.
“We had a couple of moments where things didn’t seem quite right, but Glenn would blame it on government red tape, the demand for tradies, and we’d believe him,” Sue said.
“In hindsight, there were red flags, but we were still in shock from the fires, and we’d already invested so much time and money in up-front costs, we were hooked in to it.”
Luckily, Sue and Gordon had a bushfire counsellor who could assess the situation. She thought things weren’t quite right.
Other people thought so too, and Green Magic Homes was dobbed in to Fair Trading.
“Things unravelled quickly after that,” Sue said.
“Other victims found us and we compared the things he’d told us and found out about all the lies.
“When Fair Trading started their investigation, the senior investigator rang me up and said the media had been in contact about our story and might be able to help, so we did the story for A Current Affair and after that aired, the overseas Green Magic Homes company got in touch with Fair Trading, because a lot of PR damage was done.
“They put out a public statement that they were going to help the victims and give refunds, so then the process started with them.”
But again, Sue and Gordon were left in the lurch. There was no follow-through from Green Magic Homes abroad, and after months of chasing, the couple was forced to give up on the idea that their $230,000 would be reimbursed.
They’re hoping the community will help them get out of their sardine can and into a home.
Their bushfire rebuilding adviser, Stephen Nicol, said they had identified what needed to be done, and the couple could be living in their home before Christmas – they just need the funds.
“We’ve hooked in, but there is so much to do,” he said.
“It’s been a bit of a challenge because there were no instructions with the shell – a builder came and took a look and said he’s never seen anything like it before.
“But the shell is here, Sue and Gordon have waterproofed it, and when it’s finished it will be a great little house.”
Sue and Gordon have launched a GoFundMe page and are hoping to raise $100,000 to get them into their new home so they can begin to move on.
“It’s the little things – I’d love to have a bath and I’d love to sit on the lounge,” Gordon said.
“We won’t know ourselves. It would just be like freedom and relief all at once.”