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Flood inquiry told of insurers’ progress on claims 

A flood-hit community has told a federal inquiry session in Heathcote, Victoria, that claims handling this year has been “much more positive” than after previous catastrophes. 

City of Greater Bendigo Emergency Management Officer and Lead Municipal Recovery Manager Kim Ross says there are signs insurers have improved since the October 2022 floods.    

“The city’s experience dealing with our own claims in 2024 has been much more positive compared to our 2022 experience, which involved delays and communication difficulties, and we are hopeful this reflects a shift in the industry,” Ms Ross told today’s hearing.  

But she says insurers need to move away from a “like-for-like” replacement model and focus more on “building back better”.    

Other community leaders warned changes are needed to aid resilience and mitigation against future events. 

Mitchell Shire Council Flood and Community Recovery Manager Kellie Massouras, whose area includes Seymour, said her community faces a “highly challenging” future as it continues to recover from the 2022 floods.  

“There are real post-disaster insurance issues for local government infrastructure and relevant user groups that are displaced by events,” she said. “It is important to get groups back in the job of connecting communities. However, insurance is not in a position to support this need for speed.”  

Macedon Ranges Shire Council Community Strengthening Manager Amy Holmes said communities are “happy building their own sustainability and resilience” but require greater support before and during events.  

“What we’ve found, specifically during flood, is that responses are overwhelming, and a great amount of the community respond to themselves,” Ms Holmes said. “So having that knowledge around resilience before events can be supported by council through additional programs.”  

Councils said funding reductions and burnout among emergency services staff are making community support “very hard to sustain”.   

“With the concurrence of emergencies coming along and trying to keep up with business as usual, it makes it quite difficult to sustain the relief services that we provide throughout that time,” Mount Alexander Shire Council Municipal Recovery Manager Luke Ryan said.  

Alliance Consulting boss TR Keller, who worked with several Seymour businesses, said many insurers “acted great” but “you get some instances where it turns extremely poor and leads to significant strife for the insureds”.  

He says some of his clients have become “dissociated” with insurance.   

“They’re self-insuring their business ... and if there is another catastrophic event, I don’t think those businesses, especially the smaller ones, will have the money to rebuild a shed, to rebuy all the equipment they’ve had for 20 years, and get back on going. They’re just going to be gone.” 

Today’s hearing was the last in Victoria. The inquiry, examining insurer responses to the 2022 floods, has indicated it will also hold hearings in north Queensland and Tasmania. 

It is due to deliver a final report by September 30.