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'Get this sorted': insurers welcome PM's flood resilience pledge

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says the Federal Government will fund urgently needed resilience measures as claims for the east coast flood catastrophe top 118,000.

During a visit to Lismore yesterday he acknowledged community pain following what he described as “one-in-500-year” floods.

“We need to get this sorted,” he said. “We need to ensure that once we can finalise the works that need to be done as part of managing the flood mitigation impacts here in the Northern Rivers, [they] get done.

“Enough of the talk. People have known what needs to be done for a long time. That needs to be driven by the local decisions here, by the Council.

“If further hydrology work is required, then we will support that with additional funding to get that completed.

“The Emergency Response Fund of the Commonwealth will be used to support doing those works, and I’m not talking tens of millions. I’m talking more than that.”

Mr Morrison says resilience measures will have a positive impact on insurance premiums.

“I’ve seen this in North Queensland, as well in other parts of northern Australia. If you can't insure, then people can’t build houses there.

“If you can’t insure, people can’t run businesses there, people can’t rebuild and restock their dairy farms.

“And for the insurance companies to be able to insure, then we have to be able to increase the certainty that they have about how these types of devastating floods can impact this region.”

The Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) says the claims total across NSW and Queensland now stands at 118,016, up 9% on yesterday and hitting an estimated value of $1.77 billion.

But “the most severe shortages on record” of building trades will impact claims management, it says.

“Insurers are cautioning that global materials shortages and local labour constraints will have an impact on the rebuild and recovery timeframe,” ICA says.

“The Australian Bureau of Statistics reports that input costs to housing construction increased over the past 12 months by 12%, with strong demand for building materials the main contributor.

“A recent update from the Housing Industry Association (HIA) found that the availability off all skilled building trades declined further in the most recent quarter, with trades such as bricklaying, carpentry, joinery, roofing, and general building trades reporting the most severe shortages on record.”

ICA CEO Andrew Hall welcomed Mr Morrison’s comments.

“The Insurance Council and insurers have been calling for an increase in Federal Government investment in this area to $200 million per year, matched by the states and territories,” he said.

“We have previously welcomed commitments also made by the Federal Opposition to increase this investment.

“Last month we released our Building a More Resilient Australia election platform and a supporting report from actuarial consultants Finity which highlighted Lismore as one of nine locations in need of urgent flood mitigation infrastructure.

“This infrastructure and mitigation investment is vitally important to prevent future harm and devastation to these communities, as we know flood events will inevitably repeat.”