10 April 2024

Insurers put on notice to pay up quickly as Illawarra residents count the cost of devastating floods

| Jen White
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Aerial of flooding around Dapto.

Blue skies appear the day after flash flooding at Dapto. Picture of the Princes Highway at the intersection of Kanahooka Road and Darkes Road to the right. Photo: Michael Hughes.

Almost 60 Illawarra homes were damaged by floodwater during the weekend deluge, with at least 14 of those damaged beyond repair.

As the clean-up continues throughout the region, the NSW SES said it had responded to 465 callouts and 71 flood rescues since last Thursday.

As of Monday (8 April):

  • The Federal and NSW Governments have announced disaster assistance will be available for flood-impacted residents to assist in the recovery and clean-up
  • The South Coast Rail line remains closed between Waterfall and Bomaderry due to damage along the line. Buses are replacing trains in both directions.
  • A number of primary and high schools were closed today due to flooding or water damage
  • One of two lanes on Lawrence Hargrave Drive are operating under stop and slow conditions between Coalcliff Station and Clifton School Parade after debris and damage closed the road
  • Audley Weir is closed in both directions between Audley Road and Sir Bertram Stevens Drive
  • All of Wollongong Council’s 17 patrolled beaches remain closed due to water quality and debris, and sportsfields remain closed
  • In addition to the road closures on Live Traffic NSW, local road closures are in place at Darkes Road, Kembla Grange, Lachlan Avenue, Thirroul, Kelton Lane, Thirroul, Vera Street, Helensburgh, Otford Weir and Asquith Street, Austinmer.

Wollongong and Shellharbour residents can dispose of flood-damaged waste for free at their local tips.

Wollongong Council is providing additional, free on-call household cleanups for flood-affected residents. The cleanup will accept building items (bricks, tiles, fences and timber), perishables (food waste, wet damaged clothing, rugs and carpets), damaged furniture and household items. To book call Remondis directly on 1300 362 360.

In Shellharbour, council is continuing work to remove debris from roads, drains, pathways and buildings. Yellow Rock Road and adjacent roads have been damaged in a number of locations and there are changed traffic arrangements in place.

From Helensburgh in the north to Albion Park, Calderwood, Jamberoo and Kangaroo Valley in the south, intense rain on Friday night and early Saturday morning caused flash flooding that damaged houses, businesses, vehicles, roads and rail lines.

Keira MP and Minister for Illawarra and South Coast Ryan Park said the NSW Government would continue to work closely with Wollongong Council through the SES and the Reconstruction Authority as the recovery effort continues.

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“We’ve opened up those disaster relief payments that people can go on to Service NSW and check around their eligibility that includes concessional loans for small businesses,” he said.

“Most importantly, it means if people need urgent temporary housing, get in contact with Service NSW initially and work through that process.”

Disaster assistance includes support for eligible residents such as emergency accommodation or small cash payments to purchase essential items; grants to replace lost essential household items to maintain basic standard of living and grants to undertake essential structural repairs to restore homes to a safe and habitable condition.

Mr Park said he would be writing to the Insurance Council of Australia to “make it very clear that we expect as a community, people who are insured to be paid and paid quickly”.

“We want claims settled, we want funds transferred, we want people to be able to get back on their feet – that is absolutely critical,” he said.

“Unfortunately, during the ’98 floods, that wasn’t the experience.

“I’m heartened as I’ve moved around the electorate and community yesterday that a number of people told me that insurers have already reached out, they’ve already asked for that documentation and photographs.

“But I do say to insurers right across the board, now is not the time to be penny-pinching. People have paid their premiums for a reason. This is the time that people expect their goods to be reimbursed, their infrastructure to be paid if they have that insurance coverage.”

Mr Park encouraged all residents who needed help to reach out.

“Please don’t sit there in silence and suffer. You have local councillors, you have elected local members, please reach out to those people if you are having trouble,” he said.

“This is a time when we’ve got to come together and support those in the community doing it most difficult.

“As I moved across the community yesterday, there were devastating scenes, people certainly didn’t expect the water to come as quickly and as high as it did.

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“Over the course of the weeks and months ahead, there will be time to assess where properties are built in the future, what planning challenges we may have to face going forward.

“Now’s the time to look after people doing it tough, to look after people who have lost everything and to look after people who are trying to get back on their feet.”

The NSW SES paid tribute to the thousands of volunteers – both official and unofficial – who pitched in to help during the weekend’s disastrous flooding.

The SES Wollongong Unit issued a “huge thank you to the incredible volunteers in all agencies, who selflessly responded to the many calls for assistance across our local communities”.

“Their dedication is truly commendable, with many volunteers still rolling up their sleeves to help, despite having also been personally impacted by the weather event. Our thanks to NSW SES teams who came from out of the local area to assist,” the Unit wrote on its Facebook page.

“We truly appreciate the assistance we have received from Fire and Rescue NSW and NSW Rural Fire Service, who provided nine trucks of strike team members to assist with flood cleanup operations from 7:30 am on Sunday. Some 23 RFS brigades have supported the wider Illawarra during the event.”

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