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Time for a hazard protection code on new builds: ICA

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Australia’s National Construction Code is “failing the community” by not stipulating a performance outcome for protecting the property beyond the saving of lives, the Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) has told a royal commission hearing.

Head of Risk and Operations Karl Sullivan told the panel the omission is “a critical vulnerability in the entire scheme.”

“The insurance industry has long held the view that while the National Construction Code is something we should all be proud of – it is admired all around the world – it is failing the community in one aspect,” he said.

“It is time, given the changing climate, for the National Construction Code to step up and start providing a minimal level of property protection in new builds,” Mr Sullivan told the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements.

He also called for a “national building dataset” in which information on how to meet a standard would be collated into a single point of reference. This would help homeowners who are seeking to make their property more resilient to a bushfire, cyclone or flood achieve the standard.

“There are gaps, depending on which hazard,” Mr Sullivan said. “For flood data there 40 are individual areas where we've been unable to source information.”

Insurers want “some consistent national standards around what that data should look like, the definition of the actual outputs, [and] a national agreement.”

That would mean insurers and governments and other stakeholders could “understand what work was done at what time and to what compliance standard”.

He told the commissioners there is currently no single place where the insurance industry can source information on bushfires, floods or cyclones.

Over the past decade ICA has liaised with local and state governments to gather data, as well as dedicated agencies set up to deal with a particular hazard.

ICA’s MyHazards app, which summarises weather and natural disaster risks that could affect homes and businesses using this data, has had more than 10,000 downloads since its release just over a year ago. Version 2 is expected to be released this week.