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Suncorp warns against Queensland cyclone pool plan

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Creating a government-backed cyclone insurance pool for northern Queensland could worsen problems at the expense of taxpayers, Suncorp says in a submission to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

The insurer says intervention through a pool or mutual arrangement has previously been examined and rejected by government reviews. Building more resilient communities is the most sustainable answer to regional issues, the insurer says.

“Intervention will not only expose the taxpayer to significant ongoing financial risk, it also risks diluting the insurance price signal,” Insurance CEO Gary Dransfield says. “It [would result in] creating inefficiencies in the market, delivering poor outcomes for consumers, and most importantly does nothing to protect homes and possessions from natural disasters.”

The ACCC Northern Australia Insurance Inquiry called for submissions by Friday on measures to improve insurance affordability and availability in the region.

Overseas examples of schemes to improve cover include the US flood insurance program and the UK’s Flood Re, launched in 2016.

Suncorp says governments have stepped in overseas as a last resort after market failure, which is not the case in northern Australia, and the US National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) has hindered progress on land use solutions

The submission cites a property near Baton Rouge, Louisiana, which has been flooded and rebuilt 40 times, as well as a Houston, Texas, home worth $US72,400 ($106,213) which has received more than $US1 million ($1.47 million) in payouts from the NFIP.

Suncorp suggests that an alternative to direct government funding could involve using the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility to provide concessional loans for public mitigation works and household upgrades.

It says north Queensland alone has as many as 100,000 homes that may not meet wind load codes for roofs and other building features, and insurers must price for that risk.

Improved building standards, limiting home construction in floodplains, flood levees, window shutters, reinforced garage doors, and improved roofing are among more effective measures for mitigating risk and lowering premiums, it says.