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Roma tries to woo insurers with levee plans

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Representatives from the Maranoa Regional Council, the local government authority for the Queensland town of Roma, met with insurers last week in a bid to improve the availability and affordability of insurance for local residents.

Roma is one of the most flood-prone areas in Australia, and one of the towns that Suncorp recently announced it would no longer accept new business from.

A spokesman for Maranoa Regional Council told insuranceNEWS.com.au representatives from Suncorp, IAG and RACQ attended the meeting in Brisbane last Thursday. It was called to brief insurers on the council’s flood mitigation progress, which includes plans for a levee.

Maranoa Mayor Robert Loughnan says the information session was necessary because residents are struggling with “unrealistic and unfair high insurance premiums”.

Cr Loughnan says he asked insurers to “phase out” the recent premium increases for existing customers, some of which he says have been over 1000%. But insurers “have not yet committed to premium reductions”.

He says insurers’ representatives indicated they may reconsider their position once flood mitigation construction in the town begins.

“Flood mitigation is paramount for our region, and Maranoa Regional Council is 100% committed to implement flood mitigation measures in Roma to ensure residents are protected from flooding of a 2012-event scale,” he said.

“Insurers are now fully aware of the extensive work that has and is currently occurring to drastically increase Roma’s flood security.”

He adds that the insurers advised that if customers believe they have been overcharged, policy reviews will be available on a case-by-case basis.

Maranoa Council is about to embark on the community consultation phase of its recently completed Roma Flood Study and Mitigation Project.

Councillors at a recent council meeting voted to endorse the recommendations made in the mitigation project, which include a number of different options, such as embankment removals, dam removals, creek straightening, vegetation clearing, building levees and house raising.

Of these options, the construction of a levee embankment was modelled to be the most valuable “in providing the maximum number of homes in Roma with protection,” Cr Loughnan said.

“It is predicted this option will be selected in conjunction with one or more of the other mitigation measures for optimum flood security.”

The levee has been costed at $8.9 million, which Cr Loughnan says would be “money well spent as the estimated direct damage to Roma homes over the past three years is approximately $58 million”.

“It is important to note the implementation of these measures is subject to obtaining funding. However, the council is confident the strong business case put forward to both federal and state governments to secure funding will be viewed favourably.”

Cr Loughnan says the application to higher levels of government for the levee funding also includes the additional mitigation measure not detailed in the flood study of potential house and land swaps.

Maranoa Council is seeking a total of $15 million in funding from the Queensland and federal governments to undertake the Roma mitigation works and conduct a detailed flood and stormwater study to guide future works at the neighbouring town of Mitchell.

“We remain confident we will be successful and as soon as funding has been announced, work will immediately commence on Roma’s mitigation measures and Mitchell’s study,” Cr Loughnan said.

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