Tuesday, 21 February 2023
Enver ERDOGAN (Northern Metropolitan – Minister for Corrections, Minister for Youth Justice, Minister for Victim Support) (17:25): I move:
That the house do now adjourn.
Wendy LOVELL (Northern Victoria) (17:25): (36) My adjournment matter is for the Minister for Consumer Affairs, and it concerns assistance and advice needed by the people of Rochester in dealing with insurance claims. The action that I seek is for the minister to deploy officers from Consumer Affairs Victoria (CAV) to Rochester for as long as is required to provide support and advice to residents attempting to navigate insurance claims to assist their recovery from the devastating flood event that impacted the town in October. The October flood event that impacted so much of the Goulburn Valley had a particularly devastating impact on the town of Rochester. This flood impacted those in the Murray Valley as well. It is estimated that the flood inundated or affected around 90 per cent of residential properties in the town and also vital emergency services infrastructure, including the Rochester and Elmore District Health Service and the Rochester police station. One local told me that the flood impacted 90 per cent of the houses but affected 100 per cent of the people in Rochester, and one can only imagine the heartache and pain that many Rochester people are still feeling as they attempt to rebuild their lives.
One aspect of the recovery for many residents of Rochester is dealing with their insurance companies regarding claims for repairs to their homes or businesses. While facing the monumental challenges that come with rebuilding their lives in the wake of the floods, many Rochester residents have reported what I would describe as more-than-difficult communications with their insurance companies. I have received reports of insurance companies encouraging their financially strapped clients to sign incomplete and inadequate scope-of-work documents that do not include the entirety of all repairs needed, leaving clients with a substantial shortfall to complete repairs. Residents have also complained about a lack of communication from insurance companies, technical language from companies that is not easily understood and insurance companies exerting pressure on clients to accept cash settlements to settle claims, usually to the financial detriment of the client.
In addition, residents cannot access bank loans to commence repairs as insurance companies are not issuing insurance policies that are needed to secure the loan. This also affects the sale or purchase of any properties, as the banks require insurance for the purchaser to secure a loan. The people of Rochester are already in a vulnerable and fragile emotional state, and it is imperative that they are supported and know their legal rights when dealing with insurance companies and other agencies. I have been informed that only two consumer affairs officers have visited Rochester, for just one day, and this was in the very early days after the flood event, before the full extent of the damage was known. Rochester residents need access to the expertise of CAV staff now, and I urge the minister to deploy a full team of CAV officers into Rochester immediately to help the many residents navigate the insurance policy area.