A waste management worker who lost his entire fleet of trucks, depot and own family home in this year’s devastating floods has hit back at a vandalism attack on one of his collection bins in northeast NSW.
Shane Tildesley, the North Coast Manager for Cleanaway, slammed the act in Lismore as unwarranted and completely unexpected after what the community has seen.
“My guys have been through hell and back and this is what we are putting up with,” he told Yahoo News Australia, referencing the flood disaster in Lismore.
“We don’t need this. We’ve had enough.”
Mr Tildesley's team had only just delivered one of its bins to a Coles pop-up store — built in the car park of a shopping centre that had been inundated with floodwater— when it made the discovery.
In thick, black spray paint, the words ‘NOT LOCAL’ were plastered across the front of Cleanaway’s iconic blue bin.
The graffiti was a gut punch for the manager of the Australian-wide company that operates in 250 locations around Australia, but said it wasn’t the first time that he’d received that message.
“I hear that slogan way too much, that ‘you’re just not local’,” he confirmed. “Every time we try to pick up new work, I hear that comment back.”
“But what determines that you are a local company? Because we operate in Lismore and surrounding suburbs, we employ 14 full time local employees, our mechanics are 200 metres down the road, my engineers are across the driveway, we get tyres from our contract in Lismore and we give back to the community by supporting local charities like Westpac Rescue Helicopters.”
“Everything we do is local. So I have to ask, what does being local mean?”
Surge of support after hurtful act shared to social media
It was a question Mr Tildesley took to Facebook, posting it on the Ballina Community Notice Board.
“These [my staff] are real people that give 40-50 hours to go earn a living to raise a family, just to have someone run around and go, ‘you’re not local, you shouldn't be here’," he said.
“At the end of the day, it is a minority, but the community needs to be aware that this is what we put up with.”
The Facebook post has since received almost 300 responses with a surge of support from locals.
People responding suggested a local competitor was responsible.
“So sorry that’s happening to you,” one person said.
“I’ve lived here since 1992 and I feel that what you are doing is 100% local, more local than some of the others.”
“I work at a local tyre shop and we nearly lost everything too,” another said. “There’s no need to be going around town doing this sort of stuff when everyone is already down from two floods.”
"Sorry this has happened at a time when everyone should be helping each other — disgusting behaviour," came another.
While Mr Tildesley has since removed the graffiti and reported the incident to police, with local security staff on alert, he said the online response from the community has been overwhelming, and put a smile on his dial.
“I really wasn’t expecting the, ‘no you guys are great, you’re doing an awesome job, we need you,’ [comments].”
“And Lismore does need that. It’s got a tough road ahead of it to rebuild, and it needs people that are willing to support the economy and help it get back on its feet.”
Ongoing flood repairs in Lismore
“The flood took everyone by surprise because our depot was deemed a safe zone, but we ended up with two metres of water through the building.” Mr Tildesley said.
“As a business, we lost all of the trucks, we lost the depot, we lost all of our equipment, our tools, everything.”
While at home, his family was forced to flee its submerged home from the second floor and straight into a boat.
“By the time we got back, what the water didn’t get, the mould got, so everything — the entire contents of our house — was put out on the street for contractor collection.”
“We worked tirelessly to save a couple of personal items, then four weeks later the second flood came and we ended up losing everything.”
But for Mr Tildesley, his wife and three of his four children — who are all currently living in a caravan supplied by Cleanaway — they’re looking to the future and finding a way forward.
“The depot is being rebuilt slowly, but it is getting there and we’ve now got enough trucks just to get through Monday to Sunday. New trucks are on order and the company is doing their bit.”
“Everybody has a story, but the main story is survival.”
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