Tanya Ryall and her three children have been living in a rental property since the swollen Enoggera creek flowed into their Brisbane home in February this year.
- Insurance claims for the flood have reached $4.8b and could still go up
- Only 30 per cent of insurance claims have been paid out so far
- The Insurance Council is calling for more resilient building practices, warn repairs could take years
About 15 centimetres of water washed over the floorboards.
After an initial insurance assessment, the property in Ashgrove, in Brisbane’s inner west, was locked up for a month.
In that time, mould spread up the walls and into the ceiling.
The entire house had to be gutted.
“It was quite unbelievable … and it’s very overwhelming,” Ms Ryall said.
“It was very frustrating to try and get things moving.
“Hopefully we’re getting closer to finishing the strip-out and the sanitising and closer to starting to rebuild.
“It seems there’s no way of speeding things up.”
Ms Ryall hopes the family will be home by Christmas, but isn’t sure if that will happen.
Four months on from the devastating flood disaster, many more residents in Queensland and New South Wales are still living in limbo, waiting for repairs and to rebuild their lives.
Two doors down the road from Ms Ryall, 19-year-old Lachlan Steedman and his family are living in the upper levels of their three-storey home.
The ground floor is without walls and the tiles and deck have been stripped from the pool area.
They consider themselves lucky, but Mr Steedman said the long wait for repairs was frustrating.
“It was a bit scary because we actually didn’t expect [the water] to come into the garage … it almost came to the top of the stairs … all our shoes and all these old CDs and a bunch of wine just got destroyed, one of the cars got flooded as well,” Mr Steedman said.
“We’re missing a few walls which is not ideal, it would be nice to have a pool area and a fence [as we have two dogs].
“But people have been so much worse off than us … we got lucky considering how close we are to the creek, houses down the street lost everything.”
Flood damage bill tops $4.8 billion
New Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) figures reveal the damage bill from February’s flood disaster in Queensland and New South Wales has reached $4.8 billion from around 225,000 claims.
The flood event is now the third costliest natural disaster for insured losses in Australian history, after the 1999 Sydney hailstorm and Cyclone Tracy which hit Darwin in 1974.
Only 30 per cent of claims have been closed with $1.5 billion paid out by insurers.
ICA general manager of public affairs, Mathew Jones said that figure could still rise as commercial claims are still coming in.
“It is Australia’s [most] expensive flood, in terms of insurable losses,” Mr Jones said.
“Certainly the fact that this is such a large event is putting strain on insurers’ resources.
“Insurers have deployed additional staff and additional resources to process these claims as quickly as possible.
“However, given the scale of the event, it is having an impact on the ability to [quickly] process those claims.
Mr Jones said insurance premiums were rising as extreme weather conditions become more common in Australia.
He said this was compounded by the fact that insurance globally was in a “hard market”, where demand for insurance exceeded supply.
“It means that reinsurance, which is a form of insurance for insurers, is more expensive to obtain and that does have a flow-on effect,” he said.
“We [also] know that in places like Lismore in northern New South Wales there were a decent percentage of people for whom the cost of insurance was just unaffordable.”
No ‘silver bullet’ for supply shortages
The flood disaster has exacerbated a pre-existing labour shortage with high demand for skilled tradespeople to restore flood-ravaged homes and businesses.
Master Builders Queensland chief executive Paul Bidwell said there were about 50,000 properties in south-east Queensland needing “some kind” of building work as a result of the disaster.
“The cost of steel and timber has gone through the roof … the cost of building has gone up around 30 per cent … so adding another 50,000 repair jobs into that equation is making it very challenging for builders and tradies,” Mr Bidwell said.
“When you overlay the impact of price hikes and the delays in getting tradies, [brought on by] COVID-related issues … global supply chains have been smashed.”
Mr Bidwell said flood repairs would likely take years.
“The industry across the country is flat out … in fact, across the globe,” Mr Bidwell said.
“The issue is that we cannot get enough people to do the work and we can’t get the products we need at a price that is sustainable.
“There is no silver bullet — there’s been a lot of talk about bringing builders and tradies in from other countries but there is no country that has a group sitting there, waiting to get the call.
“It will take years sadly and if you look at what happened back in 2020 with the Halloween hail storm in the western corridor … it probably took two years for all of that work to be completed.”
‘We need to be doing things differently’
Mr Jones said state and federal governments needed to introduce more mitigation strategies to make homes more resilient to natural disasters.
“We’re pleased that the Albanese government during the campaign committed $200 million a year to do that, we want states to do that also — the Queensland government has done that which is pleasing,” he said.
“[But] we need government’s to do other things — not allow homes to be built in harm’s way, strengthen the building code so that property resilience becomes one element in the building code.
“We need to get rid of state taxes and charges on insurance which compound the affordability of insurance for people.
“We need to be doing things differently with the extreme weather we are seeing … it is getting worse and we need to protect ourselves more effectively, we need to make our families, communities and homes more resilient to the impacts of these events.
Posted , updated