Insurers count bushfire cost

The cost of the NSW bushfire crisis was revised upwards by $20 million yesterday, taking the total insurance industry damage bill to an estimated $70 million.

National co-ordinator of Insurance Disaster Response Organisation, Mr Christopher Henri, said the insured losses from the fires now significantly exceeds the $56 million recorded for the NSW bushfires in 1994. Insurers have so far received about 2000 claims for fire damage. A spokesperson from NRMA insurance said policyholders had lodged over 1000 claims for home, contents and motor vehicle damage.

The Insurance Council of Australia is planning to investigate whether high taxes levied on NSW and Victorian home insurance policies are contributing to either non-insurance or under-insurance of homes. When the NSW bushfires devastated homes in 1994, one in five properties were not insured. Policyholders in Victoria pay over 70 per cent in taxes while NSW policyholders pay 65 per cent. The taxes levied include a fire services levy, stamp duty and GST. Other states have abolished the fire services levy from policies and raise the funds from alternative sources.

The Australian Financial Review, p5, 4/1/02