The cost of bushfires: Relocating and rebuilding after a bushfire


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The cost of bushfires: Relocating and rebuilding after a bushfire

The recent bushfires in NSW shocked Australia with their intensity and scale, and the devastating blaze impacted on hundreds of people whose homes were destroyed. We look at what losing your home in a disaster could mean for you.

The October 2013 bushfires that blazed across New South Wales in the Blue Mountains, Hunter Valley and Greater Sydney area were some of the worst that the state has ever witnessedi. Unseasonably hot and dry weather conditions combined with strong winds led to over a dozen powerful blazes that destroyed property and at times affected whole suburbsii.

The 2013 NSW bushfires destroyed over 200 homes.

The bushfire aftermath

Over 200 homes were completely lost in the bushfires, with many others also damagediii. As almost all of the fires have been brought under control or extinguished, the afflicted areas are now beginning the bushfire recovery processiv,iii. However, many victims who lost their homes in the fires have been warned that they may have to make modifications to improve their new home's fire safetyiii. Building with steel and concrete as well as incorporating features like double-glazing and shutters will increase the fire resilience for new homes, but it will most likely also add to rebuilding costsiii.

Relocating while the construction process is underway could also prove expensive if you are forced to rent temporary accommodation, especially due to Australia's high median private rental cost of almost $350 a weekv. Median housing costs in capital cities are also greater than the rest of the state, with housing costs in Sydney a huge 71% higher than greater NSWvi.

How to plan for the worst

If you live in a bushfire-prone area, it is vital to implement a bushfire safety plan so that in the event of a blaze your family is prepared and the damage to your home is minimised. However, although both individual and governmental actions can better prepare for bushfires and even reduce their severity, bushfire remains a part of the Australian landscape, with the possibility of increased risks from climate change as well as population growth in urban-rural regionsvii.

It's important to be prepared with a bushfire safety plan as well as home and contents insurance.

The 2009 Royal Commission into the devastating Victorian bushfires, which claimed the lives of 173 people and destroyed 2,133 homes, studied the ways that bushfire relief and recovery could be improvedvii. The Commission found that an impediment to rebuilding was non-insurance and under-insuranceviii. Choosing an adequate level of home and contents insurance should be part of your plan for preparing for bushfires.

Preparation is key

Bushfires can have devastating effects on individuals, families and communities. Although you can't control many aspects of a blaze the best way to try to minimise the damage is to be prepared. Taking out an appropriate level of home and contents insurance is an important part of preparing for a potential bushfire.


iOwens J 2013, "Emergency state in battle against 300km firestorm in NSW", The Australian, 21 October, viewed 6 November 2013,
http://www.theaustralian.com.au/in-depth/bushfires/emergency-state-in-battle-against-300km-firestorm-in-nsw/story-fngw0i02-1226743494282

iiMilman O 2013, "NSW bushfires: worst fears averted but many blazes still out of control", The Guardian, 23 October, viewed 6 November 2013,
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/oct/23/nsw-bushfires-worst-fears-averted-but-many-blazes-still-out-of-control

iiiWalsh N 2013, "NSW bushfire victims prepare to rebuild homes", ABC News, 3 November, viewed 6 November 2013,
http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-11-03/nsw-bushfire-victims-prepare-to-rebuild-homes/5066278

ivNSW Rural Fire Service 2013, Current Fires and Incidents, NSW Government, viewed 6 November 2013,
http://www.rfs.nsw.gov.au/dsp_content.cfm?cat_id=683

vAustralian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2013, "Proportion of income spent on housing costs remains steady for private renters", Australian Bureau of Statistics, 28 August, viewed 6 November 2013,
http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Latestproducts/4130.0Media%20Release12011-12?opendocument&tabname=Summary&prodno=4130.0&issue=2011-12&num=&view=

viAustralian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2013, 4130.0 2011-12 Housing occupancy and costs, viewed 6 November 2013,
http://www.ausstats.abs.gov.au/ausstats/subscriber.nsf/0/F7B1C824CA185E15CA257BD40015751E/$File/41300_2011-12.pdf, p.10

vii2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission 2010, Final Report: Summary, viewed 6 November 2013,
http://www.royalcommission.vic.gov.au/finaldocuments/summary/PF/VBRC_Summary_PF.pdf, p.13

viii2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission 2010, Final Report: Summary, viewed 6 November 2013,
http://www.royalcommission.vic.gov.au/finaldocuments/summary/PF/VBRC_Summary_PF.pdf, p.17