The region around Coonabarabran and the Warrumbungle National Park in northern NSW has been formally declared a catastrophe by the Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) after extensive damage caused by bushfires in the past week.
The ICA’s declaration initially covers insured properties in and around Coonabarabran and Coonamble. This is the second catastrophe declaration of 2013.
Insurance Council CEO Rob Whelan said the catastrophe declaration meant insurers had established a taskforce to escalate the industry’s response and improve coordination with governments and emergency services, including access to properties and communities when it was safe to do so.
Whelan said the Rural Fire Service was continuing to fight fires in the area, with more than 30 homes affected and significant damage to rural properties including outbuildings, machinery, fencing and stock.
He said the ICA would start collecting data from insurers and an estimate of insurance losses would not be possible until next week.
Whelan said property owners who had been affected by the bushfires should contact their insurance company or insurance broker as soon as possible to lodge a claim. However, they should not return to their properties until emergency services declared it safe.
Insurance Council staff will arrive in the region tomorrow to work closely with emergency services, government agencies and community groups at the start of the recovery phase. Assessors would be able to reach affected properties once claims were lodged and emergency services were able to provide safe access.
Whelan said insurers had anticipated a summer of high bushfire risk, but the number and ferocity of the fires experienced so early in the season was of great concern.
“If you live in or near an area of known risk of bushfires or grass fires, please take sensible precautions to reduce the impact a fire might have on your property. Preventing or reducing damage is much better than having the heartache and financial stress of rebuilding,” he said.
As of 9am yesterday, insurers have received 725 claims from the Tasmanian bushfires, with insurance losses estimated at $69 million.