Premiums paid, but no cover for flood losses

WITH half of his 4000-hectare farm under water, Andrew Watts rang his insurer on Friday night. He had chosen an insurer recommended by the Victorian Farmers Federation, he says, and was horrified to discover his premiums did not cover him for flood insurance.
Mr Watts is a fifth-generation farmer on a wheat, sheep and hay property at Coonooer Bridge, near Charlton. His parents, now in their 80s, still live on the farm; none of them have ever seen anything like this, with the water nearly a metre above where it was in record-breaking floods from the Avoca River last September.
Mr Watts says he has lost sheds and tools and hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of grain that is “ruined, useless”. Now, already under pressure from 12 years of drought, he is staring at more loss. “I’m still in shock,” he says.
Of the insurance company, he says: “They just should have told us it’s not in the policy.” He said he had a high level of insurance and would definitely have increased it if he had known he was exposed.
“If someone had come and taken my tools and sheds, I’d be covered. If someone had set fire to our hay, we’d be covered. We also had fencing insurance — we’ve lost kilometres of fencing — but since it’s all been washed away, we’ve got no cover for that either.”
He says many of his neighbours will probably be in the same situation and he has called on insurance companies to make allowances for exceptional circumstances. “It’s not just about me,” he said. “It will ruin a lot of other people . . . I have never asked for anything before, but I just think we are under a lot of pressure now. And it’s not as if we didn’t have insurance.”
An Insurance Council of Australia spokeswoman said there were two kinds of flood insurance, for storm damage and for riverine inundation. Some policies covered one but not the other.