Cyclone Seroja claims hit $245m says Insurance Council of Australia

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Elise Van AkenGeraldton Guardian
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The day after town of Kalbarri was smashed by Tropical Cyclone Seroja.
Camera IconThe day after town of Kalbarri was smashed by Tropical Cyclone Seroja. Credit: 7NEWS/Simon Hydzik

Insurance claims lodged for damage from cyclone Seroja have hit $245 million with the tally expected to grow, according to the Insurance Council of Australia.

While the majority of properties are believed to have been assessed, more claims are set to join the 8149 already lodged with insurance providers.

An ICA spokesperson said the damage to some homes required multiple inspections by different experts, including structural and geotechnical engineers, before the claim amount was finalised.

Almost 700 claims were lodged in May and were still in the process of being assessed.

The new estimate comes as Mid West locals say they are struggling to resolve settlements with their insurers, three months on from the April 11 disaster which saw winds in excess of 170km/h rip through Kalbarri, Northampton and the region’s inland towns.

“Homeowners should ask their insurer for an estimated commencement date for repairs,” the ICA spokesperson said.

“Some repairs will take longer than others depending on the extent of damage, whether the repair requires a development application, and the availability of building materials and tradespersons.

“Claims lodged after nine natural disasters in 2020 and 2021, including cyclone Seroja, have had several extenuating factors impact their recovery process.”

The spokesperson said COVID-19 implications affecting assessments and repairs included border closures and restrictions delaying access to affected communities by assessors and tradespeople from other States and overseas, as well as a severe shortage of materials and tradespeople.

I originally estimated the total damage to be up to $300 million, well at $245m with farmers who had to get on with seeding at the time and are only just able to fully assess things now, it could hit that quite easily.

- Shire of Northampton president Craig Simkin.

They encouraged affected property owners to contact the ICA if they were having any grievance with their insurer over a claim.

Shire of Northampton president Craig Simkin said it was disappointing that delays in claim payouts and repair authorisations were preventing residents from getting on with their lives.

“I just had a gathering with the local government minister on Tuesday and one councillor said their insurer has hit a stone wall, they’ve been and gone and not come back,” he said.

“It’s really disappointing ... we’ve still got all the farmers who can’t go on properly because of their sheds and things having come down.

“I originally estimated the total damage to be up to $300 million, well at $245m with farmers who had to get on with seeding at the time and are only just able to fully assess things now, it could hit that quite easily.”

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