Cyclone Seroja: ‘Loopholes’ delaying rebuilding Northampton and Kalbarri homes

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Elise Van AkenMidwest Times
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Northampton local Rod Murray with Sandra Carr MLC and Shire of Northampton chief executive Garry Keeffe in Northampton on Monday.
Camera IconNorthampton local Rod Murray with Sandra Carr MLC and Shire of Northampton chief executive Garry Keeffe in Northampton on Monday. Credit: Supplied

The end is nowhere in sight for many Kalbarri and Northampton locals rebuilding their homes after cyclone Seroja, with many struggling to get insurance payouts or authorise repairs three months later.

Residents, who did not want to be identified for fear of making their situation worse, told the Midwest Times companies were “dragging their feet” processing claims, not sending surveyors out, failing to come to agreements with the insurers of neighbours with broken fences, offering dismal payouts instead of authorising repairs directly and not covering asbestos clean-ups.

One resident said it was a “daily nightmare” chasing up his provider, with call wait times exceeding two hours and reps not knowing where Kalbarri was or able to send an assessor.

The lack of repairs has left some homes uninhabitable, while others are living with tarpaulins covering their roofs in the middle of winter and no fences at their properties.

Northampton man Rod Murray and his wife lost part of their patio in the April 11 cyclone and their home sustained about $118,000 of damage according to their insurer.

But Mr Murray is in a battle with the company over whether his $500,000 policy covers the damage, with the company arguing rust and not the cyclonic winds were partially responsible for the structure collapsing.

“They’re trying to find loopholes, their attitude towards their long-time customers is disgusting,” he said.

It’s not a typical cyclone area, how do they expect things to stay up? No one is going to want to insure Northampton now.

- Northampton man Rod Murray.

“They sent blokes up here within two days to clean up, which I was impressed with. But I have photos of two-thirds of it still standing before the workers came through with their chainsaws.

“If the rust was that bad, how did the rest of it stay up through the 200km/h winds?

“It’s not a typical cyclone area, how do they expect things to stay up? No one is going to want to insure Northampton now.”

He said the only thing he could do was keep calling the company until he got an answer.

“We are lucky compared to others, at least we can still live here,” he said.

“Next door’s roof was on our driveway. They can’t live there and still nothing has been done about it.”

Ashe Young lost the roof that once covered her patio in ex-Tropical Cyclone Seroja.
Camera IconAshe Young lost the roof that once covered her patio in ex-Tropical Cyclone Seroja. Credit: Ashe Young

At least 32 homes across the Mid West were completely destroyed in the cyclone, while more than 211 were severely affected and nearly 1000 more sustained some kind of damage. Seventy per cent of damage was in Kalbarri.

North West Central MLA Vince Catania said rebuilding efforts in places like Kalbarri and Northampton were “not going according to plan” and insurance companies had “one foot on the hose” in failing to process claims.

Geraldton-based Agricultural Region MP Sandra Carr

said she hoped to speak with locals at the Northampton RSL Hall from 12pm to 2pm on Friday to offer support and advocacy.

“Without having agreement from an insurance company about what work will be covered, people are unable to start planning their recovery and move forward,” she said.

“I have been liaising with the Insurance Council of Australia and hope to assist people to get their claims finalised as soon as possible.”

To book a time phone 9964 1001. People unable to attend or from other communities can contact the office or fill out a survey on Ms Carr’s website.

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