Cresta Richardson talks to the media after the second Flood Inquiry sittings in Emerald, where she told the courtroom insurance needs to be clearer.
Cresta Richardson talks to the media after the second Flood Inquiry sittings in Emerald, where she told the courtroom insurance needs to be clearer.

Just be prepared

TEN months on from the devastating floods, Cresta Richardson is finally back home.

Like so many Emerald residents, Ms Richardson's house was engulfed by fetid floodwaters, and since December 27 last year, she has not slept a night in her own bed.

But now the rebuild on her Kidd St home is complete.

"It's excellent to be home," Ms Richardson said.

"The kids can play with their friends from the neighbourhood.

"It's great."

Ms Richardson was fortunate in the sense her home was comprehensively insured with Suncorp, which covered all meanings of the term flood.

Despite some initial communication problems between the family and the insurance giant, Ms Richardson said she couldn't fault Suncorp for its policy and support during the past 10 months.

But she said insurance companies should make it explicitly clear to customers the extent of their coverage.

"Most people don't have a legal background and it's complicated to interpret some policies," Ms Richardson said.

Consumer group Choice this week slammed flood insurance as one of Australia's worst products, rewarding it with a Shonky Award for the industry's confusing policies.

But the Insurance Council of Australia hit back at the award, and argued the move would frighten homeowners from taking up urgent flood insurance policies in the future. ICA executive director and CEO Rob Whelan said about 130,000 insurance claims were lodged following the summer of disasters, of which only 725 resulted in disputes lodged with the insurance ombudsman.

"In 2008, the insurance industry agreed to a standard flood definition but it was rejected by the ACCC at the time," Mr Whelan said.

"The ICA has worked hard with the Federal Government to make insurance more easily understandable for policy holders, and highlighted the importance of providing information to consumers in its submission to the Natural Disaster Insurance Review."

Mr Whelan said the real issue was that property owners affected by the 2010-2011 floods were at direct risk of being hit again.

"Future flooding is what needs to be addressed," he said.

"Governments need to refocus efforts on reducing the occurrence of flood through mitigation."

The ICA last week launched the HardenUp disaster resilience portal at www.hardenup.org, which provides consumers with an opportunity to learn more about their local community's climate data and projections in preparation for future flood events.

"Knowing that your property is vulnerable leads to better decisions around maintenance of the property, selection of building materials, insurance and having an emergency plan ready to go," Mr Whelan said.

"All consumers in high risk areas should make sure their insurance is in order as we come into the storm season."


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