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Modern homes not resilient to cyclone hazards: ICA

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Modern houses are not resilient to the damaging impacts of tropical cyclones despite conforming to current safety aspects of the National Construction Code (NCC) and the issue is likely to worsen with climate change, the Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) has warned in a research report.

“As the climate changes and severe weather events become more frequent and intense the NCC should drive a built environment that is fit for facing up to the weather of the future,” the report says.

“Future building codes and standards need to include a principle of resilience; a principle of property protection and give due regard for strength and durability of buildings.”

Australia also faces a latent issue with legacy housing as older properties will need to be retrofitted to protect people and avoid the damage that will be caused by brittle buildings in the path of extreme weather events, it says.

The report prepared for ICA by James Cook University Cyclone Testing Station in association with Risk Frontiers makes recommendations to improve the NCC and supports the development and expansion of schemes for existing homes, such as the “defunct” North Queensland Household Resilience Program.

Recommendations also seek investment in more fixed and mobile weather stations to collect data and the establishment of an Australian Historical Tropical Cyclone Footprint database for land wind speeds.

“Implementation of stronger building codes and retrofitting programs, improved land-use planning, and permanent physical mitigation measures, where necessary, will be key to ensuring an insurable Australia,” ICA CEO Andrew Hall says.

Cyclone Tracy, which hit Darwin in 1974 remains Australia’s costliest natural disaster with a $5.5 billion insurance bill, normalised to 2017 values. More recent cyclones to cross the coast in North Queensland, including Yasi, Marcia and Debbie, have cost a total of $3.83 billion.