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Urgent action needed on coastal hazards: ICA

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Urgent action is needed at all levels of government, in collaboration with the insurance industry, to build a national picture of coastal hazard risks and how they can be addressed, the Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) says.

ICA “top takeaways” from a report it commissioned on actions of the sea include that communities, properties and infrastructure are increasingly vulnerable as climate change drives rising sea levels and exacerbates coastal hazards.

“As these events increase in frequency and intensity, a growing number of exposed properties in Australia will become uninhabitable,” it says. “Insurance coverage is limited in these areas due to the high and growing risks, creating a protection gap.”

Research from Baird Australia estimates $30 billion of investment in large scale coastal protection and adaptation projects will be required over the next 50 years, which ICA says is about 1.2% of the general infrastructure average yearly spend of all state, territory and federal governments.

ICA backs federal and state collaboration to build a Coastal Hazard Information Database to measure and monitor actions of the sea, and says public/private partnerships can engage in setting land planning and building codes that can play a key role in reducing property risks and enabling affordable insurance.

Globally, it is not standard practice for insurers to offer cover for actions of the sea, given a lack of data and knowledge to understand the risks, ICA says.

“Until there is a better understanding of these risks, insurers will be unable to adequately assess, quantify and consider underwriting,” it says. “Even then, there is no guarantee that insurers would be able to provide products to cover actions of the sea.”

ICA’s Climate Change Action Committee last year tendered for a research project to increase understanding around expected rising risks from actions of the sea, possible responses, and available data.

The report includes a case study on the storms and erosion that undermined high-value, prestige properties on Sydney’s northern beaches in June 2016, exposing foundations and causing an inground swimming pool to slide onto the rocks below.