ANGRY flood victims yesterday slammed insurance companies and the red tape involved in accessing assistance from the Premier’s Disaster Relief Fund at a public meeting in Booval.
Assistant Treasurer Bill Shorten attended the meeting and moved to assure attendees that he would consider each of their cases individually. He also outlined his plans to standardise the meaning of the word ‘flood’ so that insurance companies were no longer able to blur the interpretation to exclude a river that breaks its banks.
Despite being invited, individual insurance companies failed to attend the meeting.
Fernvale flood victim Coral Larsen received rapturous applause when she articulated the major concerns of flood victims.
She referred to the people of the Brisbane Valley as “the forgotten people.”
“We want help. We don’t want it in three months time. We don’t want it in two months time. We need it now,” she said.
“There were 500 homes in the Somerset region, ours included, that were inundated.
“On that day we had the dam opened at full capacity, we had a wall of water coming down from Grantham. We had 19 inches coming out of the sky at the same time. I would call that a natural disaster.
“How can they define that as ‘overland water’ or `riverine water’ when it is a natural disaster that should be covered by all insurance companies?”
Yesterday, Mr Shorten outlined a standard definition of flood in a public consultation paper as “covering of normally dry land by water that has escaped or been released from the normal confines of (a) any lake, or any river, creek or other natural watercourse, whether or not altered or modified; or (b) any reservoir, canal or dam".
“At the moment we have a situation where policies talk about ‘flash flooding’ and ‘accidental flood’ but at the same time exclude cover for a river that burst its banks,” Mr Shorten told the QT.
“I want to see the insurance industry standardise their definition of floods so that consumers know where they stand.
“There are individuals living in insecure accommodation and kids not back in their homes.Every individual complaint from the people of Ipswich is important to me and I want to track down where the blockages are in each of them.”
Mrs Larsen said that despair still lingered in her area.
“We are living in sheds and we are living in caravans,” she said.
“I am begging you authorities here to give us some help. We don’t want an asset test. We’re semi-retirees and we’ve accumulated a little bit in our lifetime, but we‘re being penalised because we have a bit of superannuation. It should be equal for every man, woman and child.
“The people of Australia gave that (flood relief) money and they expect it to be given out equally. We are Lions club members and we are finding that people are giving the money to clubs like ours to dish out because they know it will be done quickly and it will be done now.
“I would never give to another flood or disaster appeal in my lifetime because there is too much red tape.
“We feel that we have been treated like third world people. If you are an illegal immigrant you get treated better than what we have.”
Shayne Neumann, Federal member for Blair, admitted “the anger and frustration was palpable” at the meeting.
“But I urge flood victims not to give up. Keep fighting,” Mr Neumann said.
Mayor Paul Pisasale also spoke to the crowd.
“I share your anger and your frustration. I’ve never had a day go by since the flood that I haven’t felt the depression that you guys are feeling,” he said.
“Now we have to give Bill Shorten some direction to fix the issues.”
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