The Insurance Council of Australia has labelled the New South Wales bushfires an insurance catastrophe due to the number of homes, stock and other assets lost across the state.
The insured losses estimated by the ICA are at least $20 million, and that figure is predicted to rise in the coming days as residents return to their homes and businesses.
“At least 30 homes and other properties have been lost, and insurers have also received reports of stock losses, as well as fencing and other farm equipment. Hardest hit so far has been Warrumbungle Shire in the state’s Central West, but communities close to Port Macquarie, Kempsey and Narrabri have also suffered losses,” ICA CEO Rob Whelan said.
The ICA has established an industry taskforce to identify and address issues that stem from the bushfires. It activated its disaster hotline for policyholders who are uncertain which insurer they are with or who have concerns about the claims process. The council also mobilised its staff to work directly with local services and affected policyholders in the region.
The ICA and its members are also liaising with the NSW government, local councils, emergency services and other agencies.
Mr Whelan urged those affected to contact their insurer as soon as possible.
The ICA released the following guidelines for affected policyholders:
• Don’t be concerned if insurance documents are not readily at hand. Insurance companies keep records electronically and require only the policyholders’ name and address to find a policy;
• Take pictures of damage to the property and possessions as evidence for your claim assessor;
• Speak to your insurer before authorising repairs. Emergency repairs should only be undertaken in the first instance to make the property safe;
• Primary producers who need to euthanise injured livestock can do so, but they should first advise their insurer and make sure they keep records for the purposes of making a claim;
• Remove and discard fire-damaged goods that pose a health risk;
• If possible, keep samples of materials and fabrics to show the assessor;
• Store damaged or destroyed items somewhere safe; and
• Make an inventory of damaged possessions to help insurers process your claim.