It’s easy to forget in the midst of an icy Melbourne winter that bushfires are a part of life in Australia. But, as the sun starts to muscle its way through the clouds and re-emerge into our collective consciousness, it’s timely for rural property owners to reassess their exposure.
Australia’s forests have adapted to tens of thousands of years of summer fires which clean out the undergrowth and enable new life to grow from the ashes. Add people to the mix and the situation changes.
Most major Australian cities have forests and bush on their fringes, and historically they attracted small bands of people making a living through agriculture, timber-felling and service businesses.
But over the past 50 years the forests have also drawn “lifestyle” settlers – people who want to live close to nature. They have always been at risk from bushfire, and over the past century many small bush communities have endured tragedy and horror as fast-moving blazes have swept through their homes and businesses, destroying everything. Such fires were often shrugged off as part of the “cost” of living in close-knit forest communities.
That attitude has changed over recent years as Australia’s cities have grown larger and the suburbs have moved into the fringing forests. And as the bush communities have grown, the fire risk to properties has grown with them.
In the wake of the devastating Black Saturday bushfires in Victoria on February 2009, governments have imposed new rules on the location of buildings in bushfire-prone areas, and have mandated design parameters and the materials that must be used in construction.
Properties in fire hazard zones must now be able to withstand exposure to the fire front, as well as high heat flux and ember attacks. Consequentially, building costs have risen significantly due to the fire rated, specialist materials which are required to now be used in these areas. That in turn leads to another insurance-related issue – new building codes, regulations and guidelines leads to the risk of under estimating what a building in a bushfire prone area would cost to rebuild or repair.
Living in the bush surrounded by trees is an amazing and beautiful experience, but it also has unique dangers. Whitbread recommends properties have regular valuations conducted to ensure adequate insurance coverage is held, covering you against the worst that can happen when nature turns nasty.
If you suspect you may be underinsured, please don’t hesitate to call Whitbread Insurance Brokers on 1300 424 627.
The above information is a summary of a strata policy and should only be considered as general advice. It is not intended to take the place of personal advice. For a full explanation of policy terms, conditions and limits you should refer to the Product Disclosure Statement which can be obtained from our office. Cover is subject to underwriting acceptance criteria.
Whitbread Associates Pty Ltd trading as Whitbread Insurance Brokers ABN 69 005 490 228 Licence Number: 229092