CEO reflects on Cyclone Gabrielle, North Island flood claims one year on

More than 50,000 claims linked to twin weather events recorded by trio of insurers

CEO reflects on Cyclone Gabrielle, North Island flood claims one year on

Catastrophe & Flood

By Kenneth Araullo

The upcoming weekend will mark a year since the North Island floods hit New Zealand, followed two weeks later by Cyclone Gabrielle. These twin natural disasters led to extensive flooding and landslides, significantly affecting various communities across the country.

Insurers AMI, State, and NZI have reported receiving in excess of 52,000 claims linked to both the North Island floods and Cyclone Gabrielle. To date, the firms have settled 99% of motor and contents claims and 96% of home claims. The insurance payouts have exceeded $1 billion, a figure surpassed only by the Canterbury earthquakes.

Amanda Whiting, CEO of AMI, State, and NZI, commented on the scale of the claims, “noting that the volume of claims was sixfold compared to the same period in the previous year.”

“However, the number of claims and amount of payments only partially reflect the true social and economic cost of these events,” Whiting said. “The effect these storms have had on our country and our communities is profound.”

While Whiting acknowledged the efforts made by her teams in settling claims, she noted that for some homeowners, the journey to resolution is longer, often complicated by factors such as waiting for local council decisions on land categorisation, confirmation of voluntary buyout offers, and specific flood mitigation works. Additionally, complex claims involving shared ownership and the need for technical advice from various experts are also contributing to delays.

As New Zealand's largest general insurer, the firm reiterated its dedication to resolving all outstanding claims promptly. Whiting stressed the importance of their role in supporting New Zealanders' recovery efforts.

“Our job is to provide insurance to support New Zealanders when things go wrong, and we are dedicated to being here to help people recover,” she said. “But insurance is only part of the solution – much more needs to be done to help keep New Zealanders safe from the impacts of flooding and natural hazards. We strongly believe that the best way to keep New Zealanders safe, and insurance available and affordable, is by reducing flooding and natural hazard risk through good planning decisions, investment in protection and resilience measures, and where necessary, through relocating people away from at-risk properties.”

She also emphasised the need for improved management of natural hazard risks to ensure safety and continued insurance coverage. She urged both central and local governments to maintain their focus on managing these risks effectively.

Whiting affirmed her company's active involvement in enhancing natural hazard risk management and its commitment to contributing to these efforts, underscoring the importance of a collaborative approach in addressing these challenges.

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