When your fire insurance doesn't cover cost to rebuild burnt home

A report to council on the Tathra and District and Yankees Gap District bushfire recovery support service (TDRSS) has highlighted rebuilding costs and the gap in insurance payments for some of those affected.

Destruction in Tathra following the March 2018 bushfire. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Destruction in Tathra following the March 2018 bushfire. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

The report presented at the council meeting noted the success of the TDRSS model, areas for improvements and its potential to be utilised for future similar disaster events.

Mayor Kristy McBain said the service had done an amazing job, but the report also identified the difference between the services for the two fire-affected communities, which prompted Cr McBain to apologise.

"To the people affected by the Yankees Gap fire I apologise again and I acknowledge that we could have done things better," Cr McBain said.

There was concern though about the insurance payment gap brought about when older properties have to be rebuilt.

In these cases the new building must meet the latest standards including those laid down by the Rural Fire Service (RFS) for properties in areas considered to be of a serious bushfire attack level.

To the people affected by the Yankees Gap fire I apologise again and I acknowledge that we could have done things better

Mayor Kristy McBain

Director of community, environment and planning Alice Howe said that some property owners didn't have sufficient insurance to cover building a new property to comparable standards.

"This is an opportunity to work with the community to inform them, " Dr Howe said.

Dr Howe said not every property would have a serious bushfire attack level, but that council needed to make sure communities were aware of the implications and encouraged owners to insure on a replacement value.

There are six bushfire attack levels from low to FZ (flame zone) which relate to the severity of a building's potential exposure to ember attack, radiant heat and direct flame contact.

The RFS said generally there are higher construction costs for a higher level of protection from bushfires. These standards of construction may not have been required in older buildings.

Bega Valley RFS community liaison officer Marty Webster said there was no map to tell people what their bushfire attack level would be, as it was site specific and dependant on a number of factors including footprint, proximity of vegetation and slope of the land.

He advised people to visit the RFS website and look at the bushfire attack level self-assessment tool as a starting point.

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