A political row has broken out over the increased cost of rebuilding homes destroyed by the October bushfires.
Labor Senator Doug Cameron has called on the state and federal governments to help fund the shortfall so under-insured bushfire victims can rebuild.
But local Liberal MPs have accused him of politicising the recovery effort and the state government has ruled out covering the gap.
The Gazette understands only 50-60 per cent of Blue Mountains residents are likely to rebuild their homes, with some facing shortfalls of up to $200,000 due to costly new building regulations.
Senator Cameron told the Gazette this is where the federal and state governments should step in.
“There’s one issue they can do something about — that’s the extra cost to rebuild. A huge percentage of the people who lost their homes can’t afford to rebuild so I’d be calling on both the state and federal government to assist these people to rebuild, and to rebuild our community,” he said.
Senator Cameron said bushfire-destroyed blocks are like “missing teeth” in local streets and there will be economic and psychological impacts if they aren’t rebuilt.
“The majority of people have done the right thing and they’ve been insured,” he said. “Many people have been over insured on what was recommended, and yet they still can’t rebuild [due to the increased costs]. This has devastating financial consequences on individuals and it has a longer term consequence on the Blue Mountains community.”
Senator Cameron said the cost of covering people’s insurance gaps would “be a drop in the ocean” for state and federal budgets.
But NSW finance services minister Andrew Constance has ruled out stepping in to cover people who were under-insured.
“The NSW Government is not willing to set a precedent that exposes the taxpayer for under-insurance. If you live near bushland you need to contact your local council and insurer to ensure your policy reflects the true cost of rebuilding,” he said in a statement.
Federal Member for Macquarie Louise Markus said Senator Cameron “should be aware” the issue was one for the insurance industry.
“This community continues to deal with the aftermath of the fires and Senator Cameron
continually politicising everything that needs to be done is not helping that process,” said the Liberal MP.
State Member for Blue Mountains Roza Sage also attacked the Labor Party, saying it “appears to be focused on searching for political grandstanding opportunities despite the emotional impact this could have on affected residents”.
“My focus will remain on the job at hand which is completing the clean-up and transitioning to the rebuild phase,” she said.
“Almost 170 properties had been cleared as of last week, with all contactable residents set to have their clearance completed by the end of January.
“Aside from the $10 million clean-up package which assisted residents with their insurance payouts, the government has contributed a wide range of practical measures and concessions to help residents.”