IAG commits to three-step plan for hazard-prone Aotearoa

IAG commits to three-step plan for hazard-prone Aotearoa | Insurance Business New Zealand

IAG commits to three-step plan for hazard-prone Aotearoa

IAG has recognised that climate change is a critical national issue and called for three practical, collaborative steps to be taken to achieve real reduction in the flood risk increasingly faced by some of Aotearoa New Zealand’s most vulnerable communities.

These three steps are: a joint government and private-sector project to build a common understanding of priority flood-prone communities; the implementation of a national policy statement to cease development in flood-prone locations; and the establishment of a national programme investing in flood protection.

IAG said a joint project by the government and private sector was essential to identifying the flood-prone locations most in need of support and reducing the risk to communities residing there.

The project could be undertaken by central and local government and other stakeholders, according to IAG New Zealand CEO Amanda Whiting (pictured above). It would also need to take into consideration factors such as current exposure, current flood protections, the financial positions of councils, resilience of communities, availability of insurance and lending, as well as pending flood protection investment plans.

The second step was to stop building in flood-prone locations to stop the problem from getting any worse.

IAG believed this would best be achieved through a national policy statement developed by the Ministry for the Environment Manatū Mō Te Taiao working alongside local government and other stakeholders. The statement should require councils to avoid new development or intensification of existing development within locations exposed to flooding that occurs more frequently than once in 50 years, Whiting said.

Finally, IAG said New Zealand should develop and carry out a programme to improve flood defences for the most at-risk communities in the motu. This should involve the Infrastructure Commission Te Waihanga working with the Treasury Te Tai Ōhanga, alongside local government and other stakeholders, to develop a business case and programme of work for investment in flood protection infrastructure for priority flood-prone locations.

“Climate change is a critical issue for our country and it’s already having serious impacts on the lives of New Zealanders through more frequent and intense storms, floods, droughts, wildfires, and – in time – rising sea levels,” Whiting said. “The most important thing we can do is ensure people are not being placed in harm’s way and do not suffer the loss and disruption caused by a flood event. Avoiding the impact on lives and people’s wellbeing must be the priority.”

Whiting said that as the country’s largest general insurer, covering one in two Kiwi households, IAG’s job was “to provide insurance to support New Zealanders when things go wrong”.

“But insurance is only one component of the solution,” she said. “[We] also know there is much more that needs to be done to keep New Zealanders safe from the impacts of flooding…. The National Adaptation Plan was a great start in the response to the impacts of climate change and includes a wide range of activity that will help grow New Zealand’s ability to adapt. But we need to be much more specific, targeted, and urgent about the steps we will take to reduce the risk of flooding.”

IAG’s three steps would lead to a “sensible and targeted reduction” of flood risk for the communities most in need of it, she said.

“IAG is prepared to play its part in each of these steps,” Whiting said. “Reducing the impact of flooding through better planning and infrastructure development will help us to avoid a … future where low-lying communities are more frequently disrupted by floods. If this continues, those homes and businesses that are the most exposed to flooding will find it difficult to obtain or afford insurance. For all New Zealanders, this is a future case scenario we resolutely want to avoid.”