Steve Cselka
Steve Cselka Mireille Merlet-Shaw

Residents ripped off as premiums spike for fake flood zone

EVANS Head residents are being "ripped off" by insurance companies that have jacked-up premiums after reclassifying homes as flood prone, despite comprehensive Richmond Valley Council flood modelling showing otherwise.

Steve Cselka is one resident who was shocked to learn his NRMA home and contents policy, including flood cover, had jumped from about $1300 to $5854 a year after his property this month was "identified as being at risk of flood".

"I'm getting this after 29 years of membership," Mr Cselka said.

"I couldn't fault NRMA in the past, but this time they've let me down big time," he said.

They're ripping people off

- Richmond Valley Council general manager John Walker

Richmond Valley Council flood mapping shows Mr Cselka's Beech St home is well out of flood-affected areas, even for a 1-in-500-year flood.

Richmond Valley Council general manager John Walker said the council's flood mapping was "the most accurate anyone's got" and there was no reason any other flood mapping should differ.

"They're ripping people off," Mr Walker said.

"In our view, nothing has changed from any data anywhere that would cause this increase.

"Really, I think the heat should go on these insurance companies and they shouldn't be allowed to blame anybody else.

"People should check their bill and challenge it."

Mr Walker said the council had received a "handful" of inquiries from residents in similar situations to Mr Cselka.

An NRMA Insurance spokesperson said assessments of individual property flood risks were carried out during policy renewal based on data from local councils, State and Federal terrain and watercourse mapping, insurance information and the Government National Address File.

When asked why Mr Cselka's property was declared "at risk of flood" despite council flood mapping showing his property would not be affected even in a 1-in-500-year flood event, the spokesperson said the insurance company had not used the council data because Evans Head had been outside the scope of the flood study, and instead opted to use its own modelling.

"In the absence of detailed council flood data for the area, NRMA Insurance has applied its own internal modelling to the Evans Head area to assess flood risk," the spokesperson said.

But Mr Walker said the council was currently finalising a publishable flood study which includes Evans Head - the preliminary data of which has been passed onto NRMA - and reinforces existing council data that shows Evans Head does not flood.

Mr Cselka said he was reluctant to fork out an additional $4500 a year for flood cover, given how insurance companies had responded to claims from Brisbane flood victims in 2011.

"People pay insurance for 20 or 30 years and bingo, they've lost everything.

"I don't want to end up in that scenario."


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