Mark Ryan knows a thing or two about insurance. He used to sell it in fact, for NRMA, when he ran the service station at the bottom of Bulli Pass.
That garage is gone, to make room for the upgrades to the bottom of Bulli Pass, but Mr Ryan still lives within earshot, in Hewitts Avenue, on the southern edge of Thirroul.
A long-time NRMA customer for insurance, he can’t understand why his policy suddenly jumped in 2012 from about $1300per year to around $8000.
And that’s without flood cover – if he wants this, the premium price goes up to more than $20,000 a year.
NRMA says the risk is from “stormwater run-off”, based on a range of sources including council mapping.
In the major floods of 1998, only one house in Hewitts Avenue got its floor wet – and this house is below street level. The rest were untouched, although there was some water in the street.
Woodlands Creek, which flows from the western side of the Princes Highway at the base of Bulli Pass, must pass through a small culvert under the rail line.
The creek is filled with overgrown vegetation, thick lantana, and the disused truck emergency ramp at the base of the pass remains in place, interfering with the escape of water.
‘‘They’re not doing any mitigation works to prevent a repeat,’’ Mr Ryan said.
‘‘The [rail embankment] is like a dyke, a levee bank. Only it’s not a levee bank to help you, it’s a levee bank to stuff you up completely.’’
His wife Margaret said neither the council nor Roads and Maritime Services (formerly RTA) would take responsibility for the creek.
“Everyone keeps passing the buck,” she said.
“The council says it’s the RTA, the RTA is telling me it’s the council’s.
“We offered to clean the creek, as a neighbourhood, and we were told that we’re not allowed to touch it. But I’ve been told [more recently] we can apply to do that.”
Some residents have been able to shop around for better premiums. Others have been told they will not be insured for flood at all.
NRMA spokeswoman Mariana Cidade said the Ryans’ home premiums increased because of the risk of damage from stormwater run-off.
“We offer premiums based on a particular customer’s circumstances to ensure they pay a premium that reflects their risk, taking into consideration a property’s risk to events like storm, flooding and stormwater run-off,” she said.
“We continually update our data and reassess individual properties at the time of renewal. Mr Ryan’s home insurance increased in 2012 due to our data analysis at the time of his renewal showing that his property had a high risk of being damaged by stormwater run-off.
“The way we assess the risk of a property being affected by stormwater run-off is based on our data, which incorporates council data where available, state and federal mapping, terrain and watercourse mapping and insurance information.”
It had been suggested to the Mercury premiums rose because NRMA had decided to pay ex gratia payments to affected home owners after the 1998 floods, after a protracted fight that followed NRMA initially refusing to pay.
The suggestion was the possibility of future ex gratia payments was considered when pricing the risk for some Wollongong homes.
Ms Cidade denied this.
“With regards to your question about premium increases being linked to claims in 1998 I can confirm that this is not correct,” she said.
“As previously mentioned, we offer premiums to our customers based on their individual properties and their exposure to various events, including storm and flooding.
“Customers who believe their home has a reduced risk of flooding or damage from stormwater run-off and have additional information can contact us on 132 132 and we will review our assessment of their property.”