Fires ravaged through more than 60,000 hectares of Western Australia’s South West region and throughout the Wheatbelt this week, with roughly 1,000 firefighters attempting to control the four emergency risk-level fires located throughout the state.
On Monday (7 February), the state’s Department of Fire and Emergency Services said one home had been lost in Bridgetown, as well as sheds, vehicles, fences and equipment.
It’s also been reported that an additional four homes near the southern coastal town of Denmark were lost to the fires.
In the wake of the devastation, several lenders have announced financial relief measures for their impacted customers.
National Australia Bank (NAB) has revealed its offering for those impacted by the bushfires, with the measures including:
- Credit card and personal loan relief
- Establishment fee waivers for restructuring business facilities
- Concessional loans for customers seeking support to restructure existing facilities to assist in repairs, restocking and reopening for business
- Reduced payments and moratoriums on home and personal loans
- NAB Assist teleconsults for customers
- Wellbeing support for colleagues and customers
The major bank has also stated that agribusiness customers impacted by the bushfires should contact their bankers.
As confirmed by a NAB spokesperson, these measures, as seen with previous natural disaster support packages, are available for a period of three months.
Further, customers requiring further support will be managed by their bankers on a needs basis.
NAB business banking executive, regional and agribusiness Western Australia Jeff Pontifex said that the big four bank’s measures will provide customers access to immediate financial support.
“We know this is impacting a lot of people across Western Australia – we are here to help and the number one priority is to stay safe,” he said.
“We are here to support all NAB customers, employees and the wider community before, during and after a natural disaster. Anyone who needs assistance or advice can contact us so we can discuss their circumstances and work out the best way to help.”
Similarly, Westpac Group has confirmed it will be providing emergency support assistance for its customers impacted by the fires, with the measures including:
- Home loan and business loan repayment deferrals for up to three months
- Credit card repayment deferrals for up to 90 days
- Discounted interest rates and no establishment fees for customers seeking personal loans to purchase replacement goods
- Waive interest rate adjustments for affected customers wishing to withdraw term deposits
- Halts on all interest accrual on unsecured credit products for a period of up to three months for affected customers experiencing hardship
- Affected businesses with existing loans can request loan restructuring without incurring the usual bank establishment fees
- Assistance for business customers with merchant facilities, including monthly terminal access fee waivers for up to three months
Westpac chief customer engagement officer Ross Miller said: “Westpac and St.George offer a range of support measures to help households and businesses who are facing an uncertain time as a result of the bushfires that have destroyed homes, businesses and farmland in the South West and Wheatbelt regions in Western Australia.
“This is a stressful time for many families and businesses in the impacted areas and we know it’s not over yet. While safety is the priority currently, we want our customers to know when they need financial support, we have our customer teams standing by ready to respond.
“We offer a range of tailored support options to help customers get back on their feet, including home and business loan deferrals and emergency credit card relief. We want our customers to know we are only a phone call away if they need our help.”
Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ) is also providing assistance for its customers with personal, home and business loans, including:
- Short-term payment relief on home loans, credit cards, personal loans and some business loans, with interest still potentially being charged during this period
- Waiving fees for restructuring business loans
- Waiving fees for accessing term deposits early
As per an ANZ spokesperson, the major bank will assess each customer on an individual basis and what they need on a personal level.
ANZ general manager Western Australia, Kathleen Jahour said: “These fires have already destroyed a lot of farmland and residential properties in the district, and many of the fires remain uncontained at this stage creating extremely dangerous conditions for both residents and the firefighters who put so much on the line to protect the community.
“At the appropriate time, when people are able to shift their focus to recovering and rebuilding, we hope these relief measures will help our customers as they deal with this confronting experience.”