By Baz Ruddick , 05 Dec 2021, 2:02 PM UTC
Flood-affected Inglewood businesses count costs amid insurance confusion
When Sharon Reidy started the Inglewood Coffee Shop and Tea Garden more than 10 years ago, she knew she wasn't eligible for flood coverage from her insurer. Last week, when floodwaters ripped through the border town, her business was one of many that were severely affected. She now has to face an estimated damage bill of $25,000. "Flood came through 18 inches up the wall, so anything that had motors in the bottom were gone," Mrs Reidy said. The cafe had seven fridges and two freezers that were all ruined by water. "I just laid new lino last week and it all had to be ripped up. The walls are bowed, so they have got to be replaced. We lost everything." Her deep fryer was one of the few appliances not damaged. "My heart, I think, it hit the floor. My husband was just working, working, working trying to make me happy but there was nothing he could do," she said. Mrs Reidy said that, when she opened the shop, she was told by her insurer that she wasn't eligible for flood coverage as part of her policy because she was in a flood-prone area. "That was in February 11 years ago. They had just had a flood, but it didn't come into the town, but they said it was a red spot and they didn't cover for flood," she said. "I thought, 'No one is covered, so we are all in the same boat." Mrs Reidy said she hoped emergency funding would be released by the government to help cover damage to businesses that were not insured for flood damage. "If I can't get any funding I will have to close the doors. I have no other choice," she said. After a financially tough couple of years due to closures between New South Wales and Queensland, Ms Reidy said she did not have the money to fix her shop. "I've done this shop up from what it was to now and I am always spending money on the shop when I make money, but now I have no money to spend on the shop," she said. "It's not just me, that is why I haven't gone to pieces. There are a lot of us, especially the shops and things. "No-one knows where they can get help." Confusion for those who are insured Mark Bull, who runs Bull Family Funerals in Inglewood, said he had estimated the damages to his funeral home to be around $80,000. Despite making monthly insurance payments through his bank, which is an agent for his insurer, he said there had been confusion around whether his business, his home, or both, would be covered for flood damage. "After the flood, we walked back in and all the walls, everything has just been destroyed. We were thinking, 'Well, hopefully, we will be right because we've got insurance', but that's another story at the moment," Mr Bull said. He said the family had recently revamped the funeral home to update it and all the furniture in the fit-out had been destroyed, as well as many coffins. The walls of the building, he said, were so sodden that if you were to press them they would fall apart. "I am six foot one [185cm] and the water was up to my waist when I got into the funeral home ? it was just absolutely heart-breaking," he said. "My wife and I've put a lot of effort and a lot of time into making the funeral home what it is and it's when we looked around it was just destroyed. Absolutely destroyed." "I actually broke down and cried and I had my young son with me and he sort of gave me a big hug and said, 'It's OK, we'll get over it and we'll rebuild it'." Mr Bull said that, since the flood, he had been in constant contact with his insurance provider about its coverage and there had been confusion over what property was actually covered. "We understood that both the funeral home and our home were both fully insured. We see money coming out of our bank every month for insurance," he said. He said that, at first, he was told by his insurance company the funeral home was covered under an insurance policy but was later told he only had a policy for his home. "Because we have mortgages on two properties the bank said to us both properties should be insured. They've [now] told us that only homes are insured and it's only for structural [damage]. "We said to the insurance company, 'Who would just take out structural insurance?' We just don't know what's happening," he said. "We are in limbo". Floodwaters push further west The Mayor of the Goondiwindi Regional Council, Lawrence Springborg, said communities west of Goondiwindi ? around Talwood, Bungunya and Toobeah ? could be affected by high flood waters in the coming days as water from the Macintyre River could make its way downstream and joins with other flooded creeks and rivers. He said farming communities could likely face days, or even weeks, of isolation. "I would encourage people over the next day or so, whilst the roads are still open, particularly to the west, please resupply and make sure that you have supply to be able to support yourself for the next few weeks," Mayor Springborg said. Mr Springborg said there were plans in place to be able to drop supplies to properties from helicopters. He said he was speaking to the Australian Lot Feeders Association, AgForce and the Department of Agriculture about how properties downstream might be affected. "[There are] potential emergent animal welfare issues, particularly around intensive and animal industries [such as] feedlots and piggeries," he said. "We need to be able to get feed into them because we've got some serious issues. Our roads are extremely damaged at the moment and some of them will be cut for the next couple of days. "Then we've got to get out and do an assessment of those and the more damaged that they are, that's going to constrain our ability to be able to move essential food and commodities into those intensive animal industries." Last night, the Bureau of Meteorology issued a major flood warning for the Macintyre and Weir Rivers, the Dumaresq River and the Macintyre Brook in the border region. It also issued major flood warnings for the Condamine and Balonne rivers and the Dawson River.