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Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance
Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance

Liberty-backed agency targets north Queensland

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Queensland’s cyclone-prone north will be targeted by a new insurance agency that plans to enter the market next month.

Using underwriting capacity from Liberty Mutual, Sure Insurance says on its website that it will provide home and contents cover in a region where “whole areas have been penalised, over-charged or flat-out dismissed” because of their proximity to cyclone, flood and bushfire areas.

A Liberty spokeswoman confirmed the company’s involvement, but declined further comment. Sure says it is “excited to be launching soon” and will provide further details closer to its launch.

Former RACQ Insurance CEO Bradley Heath is listed as a director of the company on Australian Securities and Investments Commission documents. Mr Heath declined to comment at this stage.

The website, which flags a July launch, says the insurer will look at the specific risks for a home, including how it is built and what mitigation measures have been taken, as it focuses on ways policyholders can reduce premiums.

“If you live in a high-risk area, we’ll speak to you to find out more about your home before quoting,” it says. “Through this approach we provide a fair assessment that’s tailored to you and your home.”

Insurance affordability and competition has been a major issue for northern Australia and has sparked a range of government reviews.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) Northern Australia Insurance Inquiry first interim report says premiums rose 130% in real terms in the decade to 2018, compared to an average 50% rise in the rest of the country.

The ACCC's analysis shows insurers are not actively trying to win market share in some high-risk areas and are instead seeking to deter customers and limit their exposure by raising premiums.

Sure says its home and contents cover is specifically designed for northern Queensland, and cyclone, flood and bushfire mitigation measures will be taken into account to provide savings on premiums.

These include up to 10% off the cyclone premium for window shutters, up to 30% off for full roof replacements, up to 20% off the flood premium for barrier protection and up to 30% off the bushfire premium for sprinkler systems.

Automatic cover includes flood, no excess on food spoilage and medication caused by flood cyclone or bushfire, up to 18 months temporary accommodation and up to $10,000 in mitigation improvements following a catastrophe.

Cyclone and storm cover automatically includes storm surge, while walls, including retaining walls, fencing and gates, are covered up to 1000 metres to a maximum of 10% of the home sum insured.