Call for insurance support two years after storm

Road cleared of trees

Insurance issues are still a major concern for Yarra Ranges residents since they were hit by the worst storm in the region’s history two years ago. 

Overnight on 9-10 June 2021, almost 200 properties were damaged, 81 were uninhabitable, tens of thousands of trees fell, blocking roads and bringing down telephone and powers lines and left thousands without heating and phone or internet connection for weeks. 

Of those damaged properties, 13 were totally demolished and while some have got planning permits, none have been rebuilt. 

Yarra Ranges Mayor Cr Jim Child said it was hard to believe some Yarra Ranges residents were still unable to start the rebuilding process, in particular due to insurance issues. 

“It is a known fact that it takes more than 12 months to rebuild and yet this, for most, is the amount of time given from insurance companies for rental assistance,” Cr Child said.  

“It’s so important people understand that when there is a disaster like the 2021 June Storm, rebuilding takes years and not months.  

“You need to think what would happen to you if you lost your home as a result of a disaster – what insurance cover would you have and how would you be able to manage this process,” he said. 

Currently two of the 13 demolished properties have planning permission to rebuild. There have been 65 approvals for repairs to dwellings including decks, verandas, outbuildings, garages, carports, retaining walls and fences. 

Cr Child said in addition to those residents who have struggled with insurance, others repairing badly damaged homes have experienced issues with build quality and problems with building surveyors.  

“When a disaster happens and there are many homes to be repaired or rebuilt the availability of quality trades people or building surveyors can be a challenge resulting in further delays. 

“While some residents had chosen to sell rather than rebuild, others had been unable to afford to rebuild to meet current standards which is required from a Building Permit point of view and future insurance.  

“Residents have informed us that their insurers have stated that they can only rebuild like for like which will not meet current building standards. 

“Once again Yarra Ranges Council is calling on insurance companies to do the right thing – support our residents with their rebuilding journey and continue to provide rental assistance and allow people to build to current standards and not like for like,” he said. 

Council’s Rebuilding Support Service continues to assist residents with their planning applications. However, Council does not issue Building Permits, which must be undertaken by a building surveyor. 

The role of the building surveyor is to ensure that buildings meet Australian Standards, to issue building permits, undertake mandatory inspections during the build process and use their authority to take enforcement action to ensure building work complies with regulatory requirements and standards. 

To reflect upon the June 2021 storm event, a drop-in session is being held at Karwarra Gardens on Friday, 9 June for the community to get together to have a quiet chat and listen to some peaceful music, while enjoying a cup of tea and some soup. 

Residents who have experienced trauma, damage or loss as a result of the June storm are also able to discuss their circumstances with counselling support service Windermere by contacting 0408 521 320. 

Cr Child said staff from Council’s Emergency Management Team also continued to work closely with the community, offering a variety of events, advice or connection to a range of support services. 

 “In addition to continuing to support residents impacted by the storm, we have a wide range of resilience programs that are being undertaken as part of the Federal Government’s Preparing Australian Communities fund. 

“Responding in an emergency is as much about preparation and planning as it is about the actual response and clean-up itself.”