Anna Bligh might talk about all Queenslanders being in the same boat, but in the aftermath of the January flood, and now the cyclone, the insurance companies are hanging people out to dry.
Angry meetings of flood-affected residents are breaking out all around Queensland—in Rockhampton, Brisbane and Ipswich. There have been three meetings of between 150 and 250 people and a local rally in Ipswich alone. The meetings are demanding action from the government and from the insurance companies.
At the height of the flood crisis, tens of thousands of people self-organised to support flood victims and each other. But there is no community spirit in the boardrooms of the insurance companies. From the beginning the companies have taken a hard line to protect their bottom line—no insurance no pay out.
As for Anna Bligh’s request for the insurance companies to act generously: forget about it. “I would be surprised if insurance companies would make ex-gratia payments to customers who do not have flood insurance,” a spokesperson for Allianz said.
People have been waiting weeks to see assessors who never come. One Ipswich resident told a 100-strong meeting that he is still waiting to hear if he is even covered for floods. In Fairfield between 200 and 300 homes were flooded but the number of houses that are inhabitable a few weeks later can be counted on one hand.
Some companies wouldn’t even offer insurance for areas that had been subject to floods in the past. In Moore’s Pocket Road in Ipswich, insurance companies had drawn a line on the map marking the 1974 flood height. Below that line (where two nursing homes were built) you couldn’t even get flood insurance.
Tempers are running high as the insurance companies do everything they can to ensure they pay out as little as possible. Never has so much depended on the definition of the “f-word”—flood. Everything can depend on whether the water that came into your home was a flash flood, riverine flood, or storm water.
The definitional question has left many in limbo. One insurance company that has been the subject of many complaints, RACQI, says hydrologists are yet to determine how to classify the latest disasters. But it is already obvious what will happen when hydrologists get around to classifying it.
One Ipswich resident’s claim was rejected after the insurance company looked at an internet satellite photo taken on January 13: but the flood in Ipswich peaked on January 12. Another has been left paying a mortgage on a house that no longer has any walls.
The tens of thousands who don’t have insurance cover are in real trouble. There is growing discontent
about the means testing of Anna Bligh’s flood relief appeal.
Former Queensland treasurer David Hamill, who heads the Queensland Flood Relief Appeal, has revealed that the $145 million fund won’t get close to covering the total of uninsured damage, estimated at $4 billion.
The first round of payments from the Premier’s Disaster Relief Appeal will not be means tested. Adults will receive $2000 and children $1000. But a $5000 grant to help uninsured homeowners restore essential utilities is not available to couples with a combined annual income of more than $48,400 or for singles who earn more than $36,600. Future payments from the Premier’s Disaster Appeal will likely only go to those who have a combined income below $100,000.
Expect more angry meetings in Queensland.
By Ian Rintoul