Landlords want action as insurance claims threaten to shut down treasured pubs

For five years Jeff Bambrick and his family, friends and community worked together to rebuild the Kalkadoon Hotel in the town of Kajabbi.

Surrounded by the red dirt and open countryside of rural Queensland, the shop was a gem for cattle and trucks for nearly 100 years until a dwindling population closed its doors in the mid-2000s.

Mr Bambrick said North West residents had had stars in their eyes since 2014, when they announced they were restoring the watering hole.

But he said he has been blindsided by high insurance premiums since the store opened this year.

He is one of at least three taxpayers who have recently renovated remote shopping centers in the area and been denied insurance or given higher rates.

Mr. Bambrick was forced to look outside of insurance.

“Country plates are somewhere for people to come to the countryside – people who work in the bush who have nowhere to go, where they can meet, they can let their hair down and have fun,” he said.

“It’s the result of what insurance companies are asking for and the different reasons they deny you.

“We’re a Queensland store and we had to go offshore to get insurance.

The Dajarra Hotel, built in 1917, has a long history in rural Queensland.(Provided by: Dajarra Hotel)

‘The straw that broke the camel’s back’

Richard Ryan runs the Dajarra Hotel, about three hours south of Kajabbi.

He said the insurance costs are destroying his profits.

“We were paying $28,000, then last year the insurance was $32,000, which started to run out.

“Country organizations are often the source of your small town – even if you don’t drink, it’s the place to hang out and the activities in your town, the tourism.

“It may be the straw that broke the camel’s back, and maybe the end of Dajarra in that sense, but thankfully we have mines that are growing.”

A rural shopping center with a rusty car resting in the weeds in front of it.
Quamby was once home to a thriving gold mine, but all that remains now is its shopping centre, which was built in the 1860s.(ABC North West: Chemical Maguire)

Buildings, places of great obstacles

Gold Coast developer Nigel Sheiles recently bought the smaller Quamby Pub with his wife and friends.

Further, they are looking to build a caravan park, lodge, toilet, swimming pool and playground to support visitors and the surrounding cattle ranch.

As a construction veteran, Mr. Sheiles said he was shocked when he struggled to get insurance on the site.

He said: “It was very difficult.

“They wouldn’t get back to us with a quote and when they did the prices went up ridiculously.

“They all seem to think that since it is an old wooden building, if we rebuild it, we should burn it as insurance, which is not the case.

Mr. Ryan faced the same problems.

“They said the money was because of the age of my house, and because of the wood,” he said.

A man in a work shirt and big hat stands behind the bar, holding a fresh cold beer.
Jeff Bambrick says insurance costs are through the roof.(Provided by: Kalkadoon Hotel)

They have asked the government to intervene

Mr Bambrick, Mr Ryan and Mr Sheiles said they were concerned about the future of rural pubs like theirs and the impact on communities.

They have asked the government to intervene.

“There’s a lot of power and a lot of inefficiency in the insurance industry,” Bambrick said.

“I just think the government needs to do something about the insurance industry, or the government needs to start their own insurance to cover places like country pubs that are very important in rural areas.”

Traeger MP Robbie Katter said bringing in a market regulator was a start.

“Rural and remote organizations play a much more important role than those based in Brisbane or Townsville,” he said.

“This is a market failure – and there is no regulator in the market and the system cannot provide such things.

“You can’t let these small communities collapse.