Australia–– Margaret River bushfire victims are angry over what they say are strings attached to ex gratia payments of up to $190,000.
The Department of Premier and Cabinet has said it has received 85 claims for compensation after the November 23 and 24 fires, which destroyed about 30 homes.
The State Government started making offers of compensation this month but has warned the money would be deducted from any future legal claims on government agencies.
Teacher Garrath Stewart, who lost his home, said he was yet to accept the offer.
“They’re basically saying that if you go and take any action the money will be deducted later on,” he said.
“They are giving with one hand and taking from the other.
“We were told this money was a gift, to get us back on our feet, and now it appears this is not the case.”
Mr Stewart has estimated the losses incurred through loss of his family’s underinsured home at about $400,000.
He noted that the Government still maintained it did not accept liability for the fire, in its offers of compensation.
Law firm Slater and Gordon is preparing a class action against the State Government over the fires.
A Department of Premier and Cabinet spokeswoman said accepting the compensation offer would not prevent them taking legal action.
“That does not mean, however, that assistance provided under the assistance package would be paid in addition to anything successfully claimed through such action,” she said.
“In fact, it would be clearly inappropriate for this to occur.”
Margaret River resident John Bradbury also lost his home in the fire and said he was yet to receive an offer of compensation.
“The maximum you can claim is $190,000 and we have lost well over that, and we don’t fit easily into any of the categories,” he said.
“It really does feel like the Government is dragging their feet on this.”
Residents rebuilding their homes will also have to stricter building conditions to fire proof their homes, which are estimated to increase building costs by up to $35,000. Margaret River residents in high-risk zones will have to clear large swaths of their blocks, and have mesh screens covering doors and windows to reduce the risk of ember attack.