No insurance cover for high-risk bushfire area

No insurance cover for high-risk bushfire area

18 July 2012

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Australia – FIONA and Craig Mitchell are horrified their Belgrave home is now uninsured for the first time in almost 15 years after their insurance company said the bushfire risk was too great to cover them.

The couple were informed in a letter by Australian Unity underwriters that the odds of bushfires in Belgrave was too great, and as a result their Park Drive home was no longer insured. fh

The insurance company said an independent study showed 80 per cent of Belgrave was a high fire risk, and it would not be renewing anyone’s insurance policy in the area.

The letter to the Mitchells dated July 9 said “due to the frequency and magnitude of catastrophic weather events throughout Australia in recent years … your property has been identified as having a high potential for bushfire”.

The couple said they were terrified the letter was the beginning of the battle Yarra Ranges homeowners would face – especially given that areas such as Sassafras, Olinda and Monbulk were more heavily wooded.

“I’m worried people won’t be able to get insurance and won’t want to come into our community,” Mrs Mitchell said.

“You already have people wanting to leave because they can’t get planning permits.”

Mrs Mitchell was also concerned the insurance company was setting a precedent.

The couple will look for other insurance because they have no plans to leave the community that has supported them so well in the past.

Their youngest son, Connor, 10, was diagnosed with a rare tumour last year and the town rallied around to support the family.

Steve Bardsley, the distribution national manager for Calliden, which underwrites Australian Unity’s domestic products, said the company had commissioned an independent study of the fire hazard in Belgrave fh

“This analysis, supported by our data, has shown that 80 per cent of Belgrave is subject to high bushfire exposure,” Mr Bardsley said.

“As policies come due for renewal over the course of the next 12 months we will not be looking to offer renewal on these policies.”

Mr Bardsley did not respond to Leader’s question on whether other suburbs in the Yarra Ranges would be affected by the new ruling.

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