Australia — THE official in charge of handing out Tasmania’s disaster recovery money has warned that too many households are under-insured ahead of the looming bushfire season.
Pat Leary, who chairs the committee overseeing the distribution of money raised after Tasmania’s worst bushfires in half a century, says under-insurance is one of the crisis’ major lessons.
“It’s become pretty obvious that we’re possibly all under-insured when push comes to shove,” Ms Leary told reporters in Hobart as the final instalment of the Tasmanian Bushfire Appeal’s $8.7 million was released.
Three hundred applications for help to ease ongoing hardship are being assessed.
A complex formula has been developed to determine how much applicants should get, with factors such as insurance payouts being considered.
Ms Leary said adequate insurance and the necessity of a bushfire plan were the major lessons of January’s blazes, which destroyed 400 structures but, remarkably, claimed no lives.
“We just need to come to terms with the fact these things happen,” Ms Leary said.
“We have no control over them and we need to be as prepared as we can.”
Most of those receiving the latest round of payments live near Dunalley, the Tasman Peninsula oyster-growing village that was worst-hit.
The money has been released in four stages, with the earliest payments for emergency relief and $500,000 reserved for unforeseen needs.
Ms Leary said criticism it had come too slowly was unfair.
“We couldn’t do anything until we knew who the people were who were affected,” she said.
“It was within three days of knowing who those people were we had contacted them and money was beginning to flow.”
Ms Leary said the recovery in communities like Dunalley was underway slowly.
“It will take quite some time, I imagine, for things to settle down and for people to pick up their normal lives, if they ever do,” she said.
Meanwhile, Tasmania’s Attorney-General Brian Wightman will move to toughen laws and make arsonists pay the cost of fighting fires when the state’s parliament resumes next week.
Civil libertarians have questioned the need for the change.
The Tasmanian government received an independent report into the fires last week and is currently considering its response.