As bushfires ravage areas surrounding Gippsland in eastern Victoria, reportedly destroying up to a dozen homes and over 12,000 hectares of land so far, the big four banks have urged affected customers to contact the bank to “discuss their ability” to access financial relief packages.
These include the suspension of loan repayments, interest rate relief and the waiving of certain fees.
NAB has revealed its disaster relief package for customers affected by the bushfires in south-east Victoria, which includes:
- Credit card and personal loan relief where appropriate;
- Suspending home and personal loan repayments;
- Support to manage existing agribusiness bank facilities;
- Waiving costs and charges for withdrawing term deposits early;
- Waiving home loan and personal loan application fees;
- Support to manage existing agribusiness bank facilities;
- Support to restructure other existing bank facilities; and
- Provision of support and counselling by making NAB’s Employee Assistance Program available to customers.
“It’s been a difficult time for people in these areas in south-east Victoria who have experienced fire damage, and our thoughts are with them,” said Andrew Gregory, NAB general manager, retail, regional Victoria.
“We are here to support all NAB customers, employees and the wider community. Anyone who needs assistance or advice can contact us so we can discuss their circumstances and work out the best way to help. From staff who need time off, to customers needing to take a break from their mortgage repayments, we are here to help.”
On Tuesday (5 March) Michael Wake, general manager of retail banking for ANZ in Victoria and Tasmania, announced: “There are still dozens of fires burning across the state and while the cooler conditions have helped the brave firefighters, there will be a difficult aftermath once the fires are extinguished.”
In response, ANZ has announced a financial assistance package to provide relief to regional customers affected by the prolonged natural disaster across eastern Victoria.
The bank noted that the measures that may be accessible to eligible customers affected by recent bushfires in eastern Victoria include:
- Suspension of loan repayments, including on credit cards, for up to three months (which may include interest capitalisation);
- Temporary interest rate relief on lending for customers experiencing extreme financial distress as a result of the recent natural disaster;
- Waiving of fees associated with restructuring business loans considered necessary due to the impacts of the recent natural disaster;
- Early access to term deposits without any fees being incurred; and
- Assistance for affected customers with ANZ Home and Contents insurance, who may be eligible for measures such as “emergency funds” and “temporary accommodation”
“We hope these relief measures help our customers with this painful experience as they turn their minds to recovery and, in some unfortunate cases, rebuilding,” Mr Wake added.
ANZ’s customers who have been impacted by the Victorian bushfires have been encouraged by the major lender to visit one of its local branches immediately, where possible, or to contact their relationship manager to discuss the impact on their business or personal circumstances.
Westpac is also providing a disaster relief package for customers who are suffering hardship as a result of bushfire in Eastern Victoria.
The bank’s Victoria state general manager, Maria-Ann Camilleri, said: “Our thoughts are with those who have been impacted by bushfire in the Gippsland Region.
“We know that times like this can be extremely hard emotionally, physically as well as financially, which is why we are committed to providing whatever support and assistance we can.
"By offering support to our customers we hope to help alleviate any concerns they may have about their financial commitments so they can instead concentrate on their loved ones and the pressing issues at hand,” Ms Camilleri said.
The Westpac Disaster Relief Package offers various options, including the following:
- Affected customers with Westpac home loans may apply to defer repayments for up to three months;
- Affected businesses can request loan restructuring without incurring the usual bank fees such as establishment fees and break costs;
- Customers wishing to purchase replacement goods may apply for a personal loan at a discounted interest rate with no establishment fee;
- Westpac may waive interest rate adjustments for affected customers wishing to withdraw term deposits; and
- Affected Westpac customers with Home and Contents insurance may be eligible to receive assistance under the terms of their insurance policies for emergency accommodation.
The offer is available for customers to take up within three months of 4 March 2019.
Similarly, Commonwealth Bank is providing its emergency assistance package for customers and businesses affected by bushfires in south-east Victoria.
CBA's package includes:
- Assistance for Commonwealth Bank home loan, credit card and personal loan customers who are affected and may experience difficulties because of this;
- Considering requests for additional loans including emergency credit limit increases (subject to credit approval);
- Loan restructuring for business customers with existing loans;
- Emergency accommodation assistance for CommInsure customers whose homes have been damaged;
- Expediting claims for CommInsure customers seeking help through their home, contents and motor vehicle insurance;
- Waiving fees for temporary and damaged merchant EFTPOS terminals, as well as merchant fees until trading recommences;
- Waiving charges and notice periods for affected customers wishing to access term deposits ahead of the maturity date; and
- Waiving other selected fees and charges.
The bank issued the following statement: “We understand that each customer will have different needs and we encourage our affected customers to discuss their individual circumstances with us by either phoning 1300 720 814 or visiting their nearest Commonwealth Bank branch.
“Special arrangements are in place to provide support to our Commonwealth Bank and CommInsure customers should they need it, and our staff are ready to assist them with any financial concerns or enquiries.”
According to the Bureau of Meteorology, bushfire-prone weather patterns associated with wind, temperature, humidity and rainfall have exacerbated the devastation caused by the blazes, which Victorian firefighters have struggled to control over the last few days.
[Related: Major bank launches drought relief package]
Ezekiel is a journalist on the mortgages, property investment and wellness titles at Momentum Media.
Before joining the team in 2019, he was a freelance journalist for Vice Australia, Pulse Radio and the Sydney-based travel publication Global Hobo, among others.
Ezekiel studies a double Bachelor of Communications and International Studies at the University of Technology, Sydney.