Client story: Sue Nicholls


From famine to flood, Ben and Sue Nicholls have endured a lot in their life on the land. Based in Tottenham in Central West NSW, Ben and Sue are third generation farmers. Across multiple properties, they run cattle and sheep, and grow fodder as well as cash crops, including wheat, canola, barley, oats. Farming is at the heart of who they are.

With a strong approach to risk mitigation, Ben and Sue know the importance of planning ahead. They have put in place strategies to get them through adversity, such as storing stock feed for dry times, as they have done in previous droughts.

While their experience shows that you can mitigate risk and plan for the worst, adequate farm insurance tailored to your needs is essential.

The Nicholls switched their farm insurance to specialist agricultural insurer Achmea Australia in 2015. Since then, they have experienced the 2017-2019 drought and a storm so severe it almost demolished a home on one of their properties..

“We had a terrible storm in December 2020. It almost pulled the house apart,” recalls Sue. “We had rain, hail, and wind, which came through right across the house. The roof was lifted and peeled off and ended up all over the paddock. Along with the rain and hail, you can just imagine the damage. All in all, the storm wrecked about two thirds of the house.”

Knowing the steps to take following a disaster, Sue took immediate action to initiate their recovery process.

Immediately I took lots of photos [of the damage] and send them to Achmea Australia,” Sue explained. “I let them know we had this storm and needed an assessor out ASAP because of concerns about damage to electrical throughout the house.”

“That was on a Saturday, and we had an assessor out on the Monday and a builder out on the Tuesday. They were able to check the electrical was safe and we had a tarp put up on the roof in case it rained again.”

The Nicholls farms are serviced by local Achmea Australia’s Farm Insurance Specialist Laurence Rogers, who covers Dubbo and the surrounding region.

“Laurence started as our Farm Insurance Specialist about 18 months after the storm. He got straight into understanding everything about our situation, he couldn’t have been any better,” said Sue.

Laurence helps the Nicholls review their farm insurance and supports them through an on-farm approach so that they can keep their policy up to date and adequate for their needs. Sue described the value of having a dedicated farm insurance specialist.

“When we were purchasing a property in Gundagai, we needed insurance cover from the point of settlement. We also needed to cancel the cover on a property we were selling, along with machinery we sold with it,” Sue said.

“This policy update included the breakdown of livestock numbers for all the different properties, which needed to be updated when stock was moved after the sale. We moved sheep to the Gundagai property and some went to the Tottenham property, but then other stock went from Tottenham to Gundagai,” Sue explained.

“So, there was a lot of change in our insurance policy, but Laurence helped us so we could stay on top of everything and keep our stock figures up to date for each property,” Sue said.

With Achmea Australia’s All-In-One Farm Pack, you can choose from three levels of cover – one, two or three star – depending on the level of risk you associate with the items being insured. This way you benefit from one single insurance policy that is tailored to suit all aspects of your farm and home.

“We did our annual review last year and Laurence helped us go through all our insurance. We went through every item one by one, and he explained everything to us. A few items needed to be updated, and we were able to decide on the right star rating for us, based on the risk for that item,” Sue said.

Sue said one of the most valuable aspects of insuring with Achmea Australia is having a Farm Insurance Specialist who comes to the farm.

“It’s very appealing that their Farm Insurance Specialist comes out because they can see the property and we can meet and discuss our insurance in person,” said Sue.

During their last review, Ben and Sue took out Achmea Australia’s Guarantee Against Underinsurance* cover for several buildings.

“Laurence explained a lot of things that we didn’t know – anything and everything to do with our policy – and he made it a lot easier to understand,” said Sue. “We decided to take out Guarantee Against Underinsurance on several buildings because you can underestimate the cost to rebuild a house very easily.”

“Having this extra cover ensures these buildings are protected in the event of a loss, so that we can rebuild knowing we are fully covered for the cost.”

*Achmea Australia’s All-in-One-Farm-Pack offers Guarantee Against Underinsurance optional cover, which is available for eligible farm buildings. With this option, Achmea Australia will arrange and pay for the repair or rebuild of your insured building to the same condition as when it was new, or they will pay you the equivalent amount.