The flood-hit NSW Northern Rivers region will receive $800 million in federal and state government funding for home-raising, retrofitting and buy backs, while in Queensland Suncorp and RACQ have entered into a partnership with the state’s $741 million program to improve household resilience.
Northern Rivers homeowners will be offered one of the available assistance measures based on expert property assessments, impact severity data, safety risks, and potential future flood levels, with the funding package welcomed by insurers.
“Today’s announcement is a necessary and significant investment in better protecting communities at most risk of flood, and demonstrates that both the Federal and NSW Governments understand the scale and complexity of the policy solutions required to begin to address this worsening threat,” Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) CEO Andrew Hall said.
Around 2000 homeowners will be eligible for the program, which will include assistance of up to $100,000 for house raising, or up to $50,000 for retrofitting in areas where flood risk can be reduced by better building standards.
Voluntary buy backs will be offered to residents in the most vulnerable areas where major flooding would pose a catastrophic risk to life.
NSW will provide $100 million to acquire land and open up safe locations for future development, with the Northern Rivers Reconstruction Corporation conducting an expression of interest process to identify suitable land.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese also said today that he had asked NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet to “take a response nationally about issues like planning” to National Cabinet, with Australia’s east coast again impacted by flooding in recent weeks.
“When the National Cabinet next meets, we will be discussing how we make sure that we just get better planning,” he said. “In too many of these areas we’ve had homes built in areas that are just inappropriate.”
ICA says for insurers to provide affordable cover and for property and lives to be protected, action is needed not only on strengthening resilience but on shifting the approach to new building.
“Perhaps even more important over the long-term than the funding announced today, we are extremely pleased that the Prime Minister has asked the Premier to lead a discussion with other state and territory leaders to reform planning in this country,” Mr Hall said.
Queensland’s $741 million Resilient Homes Fund program, backed by the state and federal governments was announced in March and includes buybacks and assistance to improve resilience or raise properties.
The partnership with Suncorp and RACQ provide an opportunity for some homeowners to have their insurance builder complete government-funded works to boost resilience through building back better at the same time as repairs approved under their policies are undertaken.
Queensland Public Works Minister Mick de Brenni says the government will continue to work with the insurance industry and ICA to streamline the funding process for impacted homeowners.
“The partnership will enable us to rapidly test and refine a process to ensure we can deliver quality outcomes and value for money before a broader rollout,” he said.
“We’re also continuing to talk to a number of other insurers which had also indicated a willingness to help deliver the program.”
Suncorp CEO Steve Johnston says the program highlights the importance of governments at all levels, insurers, customers and communities working together to design solutions that better protect people, homes and communities from the increasing threat of natural disasters.
“Hopefully this program will become the benchmark and blueprint for delivery of assistance to all Australians impacted by natural disasters, especially given recent events in the southern states,” he said.