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Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs
03/08/2011
Operation of the insurance industry during disaster events

BRADY, Ms Melissa Jane, Field Assistant/Agronomist, Carnarvon Growers Association

[12.21]

CHAIR: Would you like to make an introductory statement before we go to questions?

Ms Brady : Yes, thank you. First of all I would like to say that I do not represent every single individual grower. There are 180 growers on the river and I do not know every individual case. I can only speak from what I know personally and what I have heard.

CHAIR: People that you have met and people that you represent as well.

Ms Brady : And my own personal experience.

CHAIR: Why don't you tell us about your personal experience in terms of dealing with the insurance company.

Ms Brady : I have an organic banana plantation in the Kingsford area.

CHAIR: Outside the levee?

Ms Brady : Yes.

CHAIR: You are not protected by the levee?

Ms Brady : No. We have bananas. We realised when we bought the property and from living there that it is a flood prone area, but unfortunately in this flood we lost our home, which was a bit unfortunate at the time. We are insured under Elders Insurance. Luckily for us, this year the banana prices were good enough that we could have paid out to get our tractor back so that we could start producing again. We are still to receive any financial assistance for our truck to take our produce to market.

CHAIR: That is with Elders as well?

Ms Brady : That is with Elders Insurance.

CHAIR: What is the nature of the dispute?

Ms Brady : I did not think there was any dispute. I actually only realised from listening to you guys now that there was a time limit for when they are supposed to. I was not aware of that at all. We have called Nigel on several occasions. He has never returned my husband's phone call—never once. He lives just up the road from us. He wanted us to come into the office, but I said that considering we live just down the road perhaps he should come and visit us. We also got a small payout for water damage that came through the roof. That is how we lost our home. The water came through the roof and weakened the wall. Of course when the floodwater came through it was not strong enough to hold it.

CHAIR: Was it gyprock?

Ms Brady : Yes. It is quite an old home. It is somewhere with a lean-to, as most homes on the plantations are. In the future we will be building to a certain height level.

CHAIR: Is it possible to build above that flood height level of December last year?

Ms Brady : Yes, it is—absolutely. It was not the first flood we have ever had. We had crops in the ground, but we lost all of those. That is when we decided to put plants in, banana trees.

Ms Brady : No, but then others, I believe, were contacted by their insurance pretty much straight after it.

Mr NEUMANN: Is it the case that some of the growers in your association have not been prepared to accept what the insurance companies had to say and have disputed those claims?

Ms Brady : Right, yes.

Mr NEUMANN: What has been the response of the insurance companies to the internal dispute resolution processes in relation to those claims?

Ms Brady : I do not personally know anybody who has been through that process, so I cannot answer that. The river flow is different for each.

Mr NEUMANN: Some people may have gone to the Financial Ombudsman Service. Were you aware of that?

Ms Brady : No, I was not.

CHAIR: Thank you for taking the time to come in. You have given us a great insight.

Ms Brady : There would be a lot more grower representatives—more people turning up—but I think some of them are concerned that it might affect their payouts. For some people it is a very busy time as they are still recovering from it all and perhaps some people were not aware of it.

CHAIR: We appreciate that there is never a perfect time, especially when the sun is shining and they have to get to work.

Mr NEUMANN: By the same token, in my electorate yesterday, the first day of public hearings, RACQ handed out 247 overturning declined notices—in other words, they accepted the claim on the first day of the public hearings. It just happened to be coincidental.

CHAIR: We appreciate your coming along.

Mr NEUMANN: Public exposure is a good thing.

Ms Brady : It is.

CHAIR: Thank you very much, Ms Brady.