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Allianz urges Federal Government flood pool feasibility study

Allianz Australia has recommended that the Federal Government undertake a feasibility study on options for a national flood reinsurance pool to address cover affordability problems for high-risk homeowners.

“For households where flood risk cannot be materially mitigated, Allianz is of the view that affordable home insurance for property owners, and tenants, with high flood risks can only be delivered through some form of industry-government partnership,” the company says in a submission.

“In Allianz's view, this would best take the form of a national flood reinsurance facility underpinned by Commonwealth legislation.”

The insurer, which differs from other major local insurers in being a long-term supporter of pools, says schemes can take different forms. It notes the UK insurance industry-administered Flood Re scheme, and the potential to expand the recently established Cyclone Reinsurance Pool to include all high-risk flood nationally.

The submission to the Parliamentary committee inquiry into insurers’ responses to last year’s floods also says risk information should be more accessible for landowners, and suggests easy-to-understand categories such as high, medium or low risk should be communicated through council rate notices or a website.

The inquiry has published 17 submissions to date, adding documents from Allianz, Suncorp, Youi, RACQ, IAG and QBE today.

Submissions reiterate the benefits of reducing risk through mitigation, highlight improvements made by insurers since last year’s floods, call for improved processes to streamline Government assistance and resilience initiatives, and urge the removal of taxes on policies.

Youi says in its submission that it would not be supportive of measures that don’t address the underlying risk, and as an example doesn’t believe pools would be an effective in addressing mitigation or affordability issues.

“An insurance pool is in effect requiring one cohort of customers to cross subsidise other customers without providing any mitigation for when natural disasters occur,” it says. “Over the longer term, this will be detrimental to all customers.

IAG urges pre-agreed government arrangements and processes, prior to events, for the removal of debris, and a build back better blueprint across states and territories. It also says access to government flood relief grants for residents should not rely on a claim declinature letter from their insurer.

“This causes unnecessary delays for impacted community members and a drain on valuable resources especially when the technical expertise of a hydrologist is required,” it says.

QBE says “to enable insurers to operationalise mitigation initiatives by way of premium adjustments” infrastructure improvements need to be reflected in a timely way in risk maps, models and other tools relied upon by insurers.

On household level mitigation, some certification of the work’s effectiveness is needed.

“This information needs to be efficiently accessible for insurers to be able to operationalise it effectively during underwriting,” it says. “The Queensland Household Resilience Program is an example of this, and we would welcome a similar approach in other government-funded mitigation programs.”

The submission acknowledges the work of the National Emergency Management Agency to develop a Mitigation Measures Knowledge Base, in consultation with the Hazards Insurance Partnership.

Suncorp says Australia’s current built environment is a consequence of decades of poor planning, putting too many of citizens in harm’s way through no fault of their own.

“Affordable insurance and the backstop of Government have always been there to deal with the consequences,” CEO Steve Johnston says.

“The evolving risk appetite of global reinsurers, combined with the recognition of a changing climate, has rendered this traditional model obsolete. Put simply - as a nation we have just commenced what will be a long process of investing in mitigation initiatives that reduce risk and make Australia more resilient.”

The submissions are available here.