HUNDREDS OF DRIVERS STRANDED
By DOMINIC FEAIN
CARLA IVEY is one of hundreds of Northern Rivers drivers stranded after their vehicles were written off by insurance companies.
Insurance assessors seized Ms Ivey's car after deeming it unroadworthy at a mass assessment at Lismore Showground last Sunday.
Based on insurance claim figures, hundreds of other drivers are in the same boat following the hailstorms last Tuesday week.
"They took the keys, told us to remove our valuables and that was that. We just had to walk away," she said.
"It was quite a shock. The car was driveable and we didn't expect them to take it right then and there. They wouldn't let us buy it back either."
Ms Ivey and her partner have a baby and live 20km out of town at Rock Valley without any alternative transport.
They both work so the loss of the vehicle has thrown their lives into chaos.
"Really, they could've given us an extra week to reorganise things," she said.
Many hail-damaged vehicles are being written off for cosmetic rather than safety reasons, which is frustrating motorists.
Local insurance broker Tim Parry believes insurance companies have forgotten about the special needs of rural customers.
"Most of the major catastrophes have happened in cities like Sydney and Newcastle where there are public transport options," he said.
"Some of our clients have been young women with kids, and they need a little leeway."
Goonellabah resident Christine Casey's car was also written off by her insurance company although she managed to buy it back.
"I was lucky, lots of people didn't have that option. And it only cost me $305 to make the car roadworthy again," she said.
"It's very convenient for insurance companies to say they have to take written-off cars off the road, but on the other hand they are telling the owners of repairable cars that they may have to drive around for 12 months before their cars get fixed."
GIO and Suncorp told The Northern Star they had received no major complaints and were trying to accommodate their customers and give them a range of options.
On Tuesday afternoon in the NSW Upper House, shadow roads minister Duncan Gay asked the Minister for Roads, Eric Roozendaal, what assistance the Government would offer Lismore storm victims.
Mr Roozendaal took the question on notice but not before Treasurer Michael Costa called it "the dumbest question of all time".