When it came time to renew his home insurance two years ago, Rob Sayer let it slide.
Extensive hazard-reduction burning had been completed in the bush around his property.
He figured his home, just south of Mogo on the South Coast, was protected.
But when a bushfire ripped through the heart of the historic small town of Mogo, he lost everything.
- The home Jeremadra resident Rob Sayer built 40 years ago was destroyed on New Year’s Eve
- He had not not been insured for two years
- Eurobodalla Shire Council is urging residents to take time with their insurance claims and not accept low offers
“The adjoining block four years earlier had a major undergrowth hazard reduction burn, 200 acres along the western boundary,” he said.
“It was basically clean and we were under the assumption that that might protect us.”
The stone-built home he constructed 40 years ago was destroyed by the Clyde Mountain blaze — and his lapsed insurance meant trouble.
“I was surprised that the rocks were still up [but] I was amazed that everything else had been vaporised,” he said.
He is now “pretty out of pocket” and living in a tent in his niece’s backyard.
At the age of 63, he faces the prospect of having to rebuild.
“We’re all upset obviously but it’s not the end of the world, we’re alive,” he said.
“It’s nice to do it [rebuild]. It’s like reliving it again 40 years later [but] I feel a lot more tired these days.”
The insurance process has begun for the hundreds of people across New South Wales who have lost their homes in bushfires.
But many people affected are only partially covered or are not insured at all.
Along the south coast, his is a familiar story.
Ken Sloan, president of Rally for Recovery in Tomakin, said people who worked in the area tended to be low-income earners who could not afford insurance.
“Friends of mine have insurance but it’s probably about a quarter or half of what they should’ve insured their house for because they can’t afford to pay the premiums,” he said.
Eurobodalla Mayor Liz Innes said the council was “really conscious” of the issue and wanted to ensure people were able to continue living in the area.
“What we’re saying to people is, ‘make sure that you take your time, make sure you make really clearly informed decisions as far as negotiating your settlements’,” Ms Innes said.
South coast communities want displaced people taken care of whether they are insured or not.
“These people need something right away, whether it’s cash handouts or not,” Mr Sloan said.
A GoFundMe campaign has started for Mr Sayer and his partner Rhonda.
He said the gesture had restored his faith in humanity.
“The people’s generosity has really opened my eyes and I think it’s changed me for the better,” he said.
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