Residents priced out of town

Insurance representatives listen on at the Central Highlands flood mitigation presentation.
Insurance representatives listen on at the Central Highlands flood mitigation presentation.

INSURANCE premium increases could potentially drive families from Emerald, as residents struggle to make their payments.

Reports emerged this week of homeowners being slammed with up to 700% premium increases as speculation and uncertainty infiltrated the local property market.

In a bid to put an end to the potential loss of confidence in Emerald's property market, Central Highlands Mayor Peter Maguire hosted two insurance giants to assure them flood mitigation work was under way.

"We gave presentations about the studies that we have done, the way our land planning has changed here in Emerald, and our recommendations for mitigation," Cr Maguire said. "The insurance companies said that they want to see us act, and see some firm commitments to mitigation.

"We were trying to show them that actions are already happening, and a lot is dependent on funding from other sources, like the state and federal governments."

Despite the open invitation, only Suncorp and CGU insurance representatives flew to Emerald.

On a tour of the town, pivotal flood areas, such as the LN1 drain and the railway line crossing the Nogoa River at the Vince Lester Bridge, were explained to the corporate executives.

At the morning meeting beforehand, Taylor Byrne valuer Pat Lyons told those in the council chambers the speculation around insurance availability in Emerald had the potential to drive people away.

Mr Lyons said while the Emerald property market remained strong, housing sales were levelling out amid a fear insurance would not be available.

"The increase in insurance premiums will put further pressure on the cost of housing as owner-occupiers have to factor this increased cost into their budgets and landlords seek to recover the increased costs through tenants," Mr Lyons said.

"Agents are reporting that increased insurance premiums and the lack of availability of insurance for flooded properties has been affecting sales in the affected areas over recent weeks."

CD Adams principal Clinton Adams concurred and singled out Suncorp, which residents had long hailed as a comprehensive insurer.

"Over the past year-and-a-half Suncorp and other insurers have stood behind residents and said, 'we're here for you', and then they come out and say, 'well actually, we're not anymore'," Mr Adams said.

"Of course that's going to have an impact on confidence in the market."

See Friday's CQNews for more comprehensive insurance coverage, including those companies that will - and won't - offer flood coverage.

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