Foolish to ignore flood lessons

Steve Johnston

Steve Johnston

Group Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director



 Foolish to ignore flood lessons

When I drove into Lismore around this time last year, I was immediately confronted by some of the most widespread devastation I had seen in my 17 years in the insurance industry.

I saw firsthand the trail of destruction left behind by raging flood waters and the desperate situation so many people suddenly found themselves in.

Unfortunately, many communities are continuing the long physical and emotional recovery following the 2022 East Coast floods.

Extreme weather events, be it floods, bushfires or storms, no longer seem to have an “off season”. In this context, the value of insurance has never been greater, nor has the challenge of affordability. This is compounded for those living in our most risk-prone or vulnerable communities. Simply put, after more than a century of allowing people to build in harm’s way, we need to better support those that are paying the emotional and financial price.

Pushing people out of the insurance market or exacerbating the problem of underinsurance is not an option as it will simply transfer the cost of the extreme weather event, and the one after, to the taxpayer. This is an intergenerational challenge that must be met now through proactive collaboration and investment across all sectors of our community. 

Encouragingly, we have seen the dial shift on government resilience investment since the floods. This is positive progress but communities across the state are still crying out for more action. We need to continue to cut through the tiers of government and for National Cabinet to play a leadership role – driving a national conversation and long-term stable financing to protect communities now and from a changing climate.

Importantly, let’s make sure we choose the right mitigation projects by doing the numbers on the economic, social and environmental benefits. Local councils must be central to this as they have invaluable insights, data and understand local context. When infrastructure is simply not enough to reduce the risk, we need to have more tough conversations about the long-term future of some vulnerable communities.

More than one year on since the historic floods, the deep physical, financial and emotional toll continues to unfold and will do so for years to come. Suncorp Group has made strong progress on the rebuild for our customers, having finalised more than 14,000, or 80 per cent, of flood claims in New South Wales and around 19,000, or 85 per cent of home claims made in Queensland. But our job won’t be done until each and every customer is back in their home.

We’re now at a critical juncture. The next 12 months will be vital to ensure the momentum is sustained, commitments are turned into action, and the legacy of these floods are not forgotten. As a state and as a nation, we simply cannot afford to miss this opportunity to make 2022 count by ensuring more people are protected from extreme weather both now and well into the future.

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