What’s driving up burglary claims in New Zealand?

Damages often exceed $200,000, according to insurer

What’s driving up burglary claims in New Zealand?


By Roxanne Libatique

New insights from IAG’s AMI Insurance (AMI) have revealed that the theft of water heating systems leads to the most expensive home burglary claims.

In several instances, stolen hot water cylinders have resulted in damages exceeding $200,000 due to flooding from exposed pipes.

“More than 500 water heating units are stolen from houses, every year,” said AMI executive general manager consumer brands Paula ter Brake. “These essential household systems are incurring extensive damage to homes when being stolen, particularly due to flooding.”

Burglars in New Zealand target water heating units

AMI HomeHub suggested that burglars target water heating units due to their easy removal with basic tools.

“Our repair experts at AMI HomeHub also note that hot water cylinders and copper water pipes and gutters are likely targeted for the scrap value of the copper,” ter Brake said. “In most cases, exterior gas water heaters are stolen for the resell value of the unit as these can be removed without damage to the unit.”

Ter Brake expressed concerns that exterior water heating units can be stolen without setting off security alarms. To passersby or neighbours, thieves might appear to be working on the property while disconnecting these units.

“We’re seeing most house burglaries occur around lunchtime or early afternoon,” she said, pointing out that burglary claims have remained high since a peak in 2022, which coincided with New Zealanders returning to workplaces after the COVID-19 lockdowns.

Burglars often cause significant damage during break-ins, leaving residents to replace more than just stolen items.

“Our data shows windows are the most common entry point for burglars, which contributes to repair costs. Glass panels are frequently smashed, and surrounding furniture often sustains malicious damage,” ter Brake said.

Preventive measures against water heating unit theft

To prevent water heating system theft, AMI advises New Zealanders to:

  • place gas water heating units out of sight from the road;
  • build an enclosure or cage around exterior gas water heating units;
  • disguise exterior copper spouting and gutters with oil-based paint;
  • replace copper pipes with modern alternatives like Buteline; and
  • create the appearance of occupancy when the house is unattended. Use a radio or lights, park a car in the driveway, and install visible security cameras or deterrent signs.

Most commonly stolen items during house burglaries

According to IAG’s domestic home and contents claims for theft or burglary, other items frequently stolen during house burglaries include:

  • clothing and shoes;
  • electronic devices;
  • power tools and gardening equipment;
  • bikes and equipment, including e-bikes and e-scooters; and
  • sunglasses.

Volume of house burglary claims per region in New Zealand

IAG also revealed the volume of house burglary claims per region:

  • Auckland Region (34.7%)
  • Canterbury Region (20.4%)
  • Waikato Region (11.9%)
  • Wellington Region (7.6%)
  • Bay of Plenty Region (6.5%)
  • Manawatū-Whanganui Region (4.7%)
  • Hawke’s Bay Region (3.5%)
  • Northland Region (3.2%)
  • Otago Region (2.1%)
  • Taranaki Region (1.2%)
  • Southland Region (1.1%)
  • Gisborne Region (0.7%)
  • Tasman Region (0.7%)
  • Nelson Region (0.7%)
  • Marlborough Region (0.6%)
  • West Coast Region (0.4%)

AMI also revealed the most stolen cars in New Zealand in 2023.

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