Damage caused by Cyclone Debbie stretched along the coast.
Damage caused by Cyclone Debbie stretched along the coast. Scott Radford-Chisholm

Recovery bill blow out: Cowboy tradesmen to blame

CYCLONE Debbie's $2billion recovery bill has blown out due to "rogue" outfits and "cowboy" tradesmen charging up to a 400 per cent mark-up on rebuilding costs two months after the natural disaster.

One insurer, in Australia's largest general insurance group, has told cyclone-devastated home owners they will not re-insure their properties in the disaster zone, which stretches 1300km from Bowen to Byron Bay.

As Queensland braced for more flooding, outraged advocates warned policy holders in flood and cyclone-affected areas they will cop sky-rocketing premiums.

Building companies and the Insurance Council of Australia said the higher costs were due to "supply and demand", with limited labour and materials in hard-hit areas and the logistics of flying in tradesmen from down south.

Latest ICA figures show the total estimated value of insured losses is $897million from 56,135 claims, including residential, commercial, contents, car and marine, with about 670 houses statewide condemned as "uninhabitable".

 

UNCERTAIN FUTURE: Proserpine residents Adele and Graham Houchen are living in their caravan while they wait for their home to be fixed after Cyclone Debbie.
UNCERTAIN FUTURE: Proserpine residents Adele and Graham Houchen are living in their caravan while they wait for their home to be fixed after Cyclone Debbie. Peter Wallis

Details have been uncovered of builders and contractors working on insurance jobs in north Queensland billing $500 for a $100 electrical make-safe; quoting up to $500 an hour for green-waste removal, and skip-hire quotes soaring from $300 a day to $2000 a day.

Roof, fencing and structural repair quotes from builders who claim to have insurance company approval are up to four times higher than independent quotes obtained by home owners in the Whitsundays.

Treasurer Curtis Pitt said the state Budget was expected to take a $1.5billion hit from Cyclone Debbie, with the total repair bill predicted to be $2billion after the cyclone caused widespread flooding south beyond the NSW border.

Analysts expect home and motor policies to spike by 5 per cent, and commercial insurance premiums by 15-20 per cent, in areas affected by Cyclone Debbie.

At least one insurance company, CGU - part of giant insurer IAG, which collected $11.4billion last year in premiums - has refused to renew existing home cover in the cyclone zone and changed underwriting guidelines.

Whitsunday MP Jason Costigan has called for building and insurance industry ombudsmen to investigate the complaints.

Proserpine residents Adele and Graham Houchen are living in their caravan while they wait for their home to be fixed. "It has been a lengthy process," Mr Houchen said. "There's been a lot of headaches with the insurance company."


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