Homes badly damaged by Gabrielle can expect write-offs, Tower boss says

The New Zealand insurer has 170,000 home policies on its books

Homes badly damaged by Gabrielle can expect write-offs, Tower boss says

Catastrophe & Flood

By Kenneth Araullo

With Aotearoa still reeling from the extreme weather events that rocked the country, Tower Insurance boss Blair Turnbull offered some relief for residents with severely damaged homes as he stated write-offs on those that got hit the worst by Gabrielle.

These homes include those that were flooded in metres of water and contaminated silt. The insurer, which has 170,000 home policies on its books, said that assessing yellow- and red-stickered homes was a priority.

"The unfortunate part of it is if floodwaters and silt are over one to two metres, it's very hard to see how you can rebuild that home," Turnbull said. Demolishing is likely the only option as the home and the ground are both contaminated.

Mitigate the risks

In a statement, Turnbull said that there were areas where houses should not continue to be built, and the insurer is working with the government to make sure that the information is being relayed. His statement echoes what he said in a separate interview, as he called to stop building homes in flood-prone areas after the Auckland floods in late January followed by Cyclone Gabrielle in February.

"The key thing here is you can mitigate these risks but you also must recognise these risks and there are places where we just shouldn't build," Turnbull said. "Those are the discussions that are most important. The data enables us to look through and see those areas."

He also stated that decisions around a managed retreat and future construction needed to be made at the government level for those in very high-risk areas. IAG, the country’s largest insurer, has stated that it is working with the government to conceptualize such plans, and that it foresaw 20,000 homes at risk of flooding should another extreme weather event hit NZ in the future.

"We won't embargo an area but what we are highlighting is if we continue to face into these increasing weather events, in frequency and severity, there will be areas that it's inevitable they will struggle to get insurance," Turnbull said. "Clearly that's not an outcome that we want."

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