Floods, fires exhausting disaster budget

FLOODING across Queensland and NSW last month will cost Suncorp between $200 million and $220 million in claims, accounting for much of the insurer's provision for natural disasters for the financial year.

FLOODING across Queensland and NSW last month will cost Suncorp between $200 million and $220 million in claims, accounting for much of the insurer's provision for natural disasters for the financial year.

Bushfires and storms in Victoria and Tasmania in January will cost $50 million, on top of the $147 million already booked in the December half of last year.

All up, that means about 80 per cent of Suncorp's $520 million provision for natural disaster claims has already been taken up.

Separately, the states will be watching closely how Queensland and the federal government resolve a key reconstruction issue potentially worth billions of dollars.

The floods provided a window of opportunity to ensure the reconstruction of major assets such as bridges was of a greater resilience than that destroyed said David Crisafulli, a minister leading recovery efforts.

Debate over the so-called "betterment" provisions of national arrangements flared after assets newly rebuilt after the floods of 2011 were again damaged or destroyed, with some works near Bundaberg completed just weeks ago.

The floods "provided a window on how absurd our practise has been in replacing infrastructure" destroyed in a disaster, Mr Crisafulli said. "It's in the interest of the federal government - and everybody else - to get it right the first time."

A teleconference on Tuesday between Joe Ludwig, the federal minister appointed to assist the Queensland floods recovery, though, appears to have reached a breakthrough over guidelines.

"There was a genuine willingness from Senator Joe Ludwig to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the state," Mr Crisafulli said.

Under existing rules the federal government will typically pay 75 per cent of the cost of replacing assets lost in a disaster.

Should the road or public asset be improved to increase its tolerance for future extreme events, the federal and state government split the cost - a result that has often proved too costly or difficult.

"We will work with Queensland to develop and deliver a revised national partnership agreement that meets the needs of the state to rebuild, be stronger, and get back on its feet," Senator Ludwig said.

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