Uninsurable nation: Australia’s most climate-vulnerable places

26th May 2022

Climate change, driven by the burning of coal, oil and gas, is supercharging our weather systems. While climate change affects all Australians, the risks are not shared equally. In the most extreme instances, areas may become uninhabitable. 

Worsening extreme weather means increased costs of maintenance, repair and replacement to properties – our homes, workplaces and commercial buildings. As the risk of being affected by extreme weather events increases, insurers will raise premiums to cover the increased cost of claims and reinsurance. 

Insurance will become increasingly unaffordable or unavailable in large parts of Australia due to worsening extreme weather.

This report outlines the top 20 most at-risk federal electorates to climate change-related extreme weather events, providing a brief profile of the top 10. The report also outlines the most at-risk electorates for each state and territory. Check out our Climate Risk Map to see if your area is at risk.

Key findings

1. Climate change is creating an insurability crisis in Australia due to worsening extreme weather and sky-rocketing insurance premiums. 

Worsening extreme weather means increased costs of maintenance, repair and replacement to properties – our homes, workplaces and commercial buildings. As the risk of being affected by extreme weather events is increasing, insurers are raising premiums to cover the increased cost of claims and reinsurance.

The Climate Council has produced a ranking of the top 10 most at-risk electorates from climate change and extreme weather events (covering bushfires, extreme wind and different types of flooding), based on the percentage of ‘high risk’ properties in each federal electorate across Australia.

Across Australia approximately 520,940 properties, or one in every 25, will be ‘high risk’, having annual damage costs from extreme weather and climate change that make them effectively uninsurable by 2030. In addition, 9% of properties (1 in 11) will reach the ‘medium risk’ classification by 2030, with annual damage costs that equate to 0.2–1% of the property replacement cost. These properties are at risk of becoming underinsured.

2. Climate change affects all Australians, but some federal electorates face far greater risks than others. 

The top 10 most at-risk federal electorates by 2030 are: 

1. Nicholls (Vic) 
2. Richmond (NSW) 
3. Maranoa (QLD) 
4. Moncrieff (QLD), 
5. Wright (QLD), 
6. Brisbane (QLD), 
7. Griffith (QLD), 
8. Indi (Vic) 
9. Page (NSW) and 
10. Hindmarsh (SA). 

In these at-risk electorates, 15% of properties (165,646) or around one in every seven properties will be uninsurable this decade.  

In the electorate of Nicholls in Victoria, which covers the Local Government Areas (LGAs) of Campaspe, Greater Shepparton, Moira, and parts of Strathbogie and Mitchell, 26.5% of properties will be uninsurable by 2030. In the LGA of Greater Shepparton, it is as many as half (56% of properties), and almost 90% in the locality of Shepparton. 

By 2030, 40 federal electorates across Australia will have 4% of properties classified as high risk. Eighteen of these electorates (or 45%) are in Queensland. The top five most at-risk electorates in Queensland are: Maranoa, Moncrieff, Wright, Brisbane and Griffith. 

The percentage of properties that will be uninsurable by 2030 in each state and territory is 6.5% in Queensland; 3.3% in NSW; 3.2% in South Australia; 2.6% in Victoria; 2.5% in the Northern Territory; 2.4% in Western Australia; 2% in Tasmania and 1.3% in the ACT.

3. Riverine floods are the most costly disaster in Australia. 

Riverine flooding poses the biggest risk to properties. Of the properties classified as uninsurable by 2030, 80% of that risk is due to riverine flooding. 

Bushfires and surface water flooding (sometimes called flash flooding) are the other major worsening hazards causing properties to become uninsurable by 2030. 

The five most at-risk electorates for riverine flooding are: Nicholls in Victoria, Richmond in New South Wales (including the towns of Ballina, Bangalow, Brunswick Heads, Byron Bay, Hastings Point, Kingscliff, Lennox Head, Mullumbimby, and Tweed Heads), and Maranoa (in rural southwestern Queensland, including the towns of Roma, Stanthorpe, Winton and Warwick), Brisbane, and Moncrieff in Queensland (part of the Gold Coast). 

Across Australia, 2.5% of properties (360,691 properties) will be at ‘high risk’ of riverine flooding by 2030, with a further 372,684 at ‘medium risk’ of riverine flooding. 

4. Decisions and actions over this next term of government will influence the future impacts of climate change for generations to come.

Unfortunately over the last eight years, the Federal government has failed to meaningfully tackle climate change or prepare Australians for worsening extreme weather.

There is also an urgent need to upscale investment in national adaptation and disaster risk reduction funding to help Australians better prepare for worsening extreme weather events. 

This is an edited version of an article first published by The Climate Council.

The ALA would like to thank The Climate Council for this contribution.

The Climate Council is Australia’s leading climate change communications organisation. They provide authoritative, expert advice to the Australian public on climate change and solutions based on the most up-to-date science available.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of the Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA).

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Tags: Environment Climate change The Climate Council