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Record Insurance Support For Communities - 2021 Extreme Weather Claims Exceed $300 M

Total weather-related insurance costs have already hit a record high in 2021 at $304.9 m-, beating the previous record, set in 2020, of $274 m. Insured losses are only part of the picture. Taking under-insured and uninsured losses into account, total economic losses may be twice this level. A such, total climate related combined losses for this year and 2020 likely exceed $1 bn. Aside from the high, and growing, immediate financial costs of these events, they bring widespread and long-lasting social, environmental and economic disruption.

"This year’s new record underlines the importance of insurance to Aotearoa New Zealand," said Tim Grafton, CE of the Insurance Council of New Zealand - Te Kāhui Inihua o Aotearoa. "While taking out insurance helps consumers both price and manage their own risks, doing so does nothing to actually reduce the risk of being impacted by an extreme weather event. To do that, Aotearoa New Zealand must invest in making itself more resilient."

Risks must be reduced by investing in adaptation measures such as flood defences. In some cases, honest conversations will have to be held around managed retreat and where homes, businesses and community assets, such as roads and three waters infrastructure, are built and maintained.

Society needs to take a long view to climate risks. Householders, community groups, Iwi, businesses, farmers and insurers all have a role to play. However, much of this mahi, and cost, will fall to central and local government to ensure there is the right legal framework and investment in place to manage these risks over the decades ahead. This will be a multi-decade, multi-billion dollar process.

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"The reduction of risks through investment in resilience is central to maintaining both the affordability and availability of insurance," added Tim. "In that way, we can ensure that when the worst happens, insurers are there to help put householders, businesses and communities back on their feet."

Major weather-related claims events this year included: late May’s Canterbury flooding ($46 m); June’s South Auckland tornado ($32 m); July’s flooding event affecting the upper South Island and lower North Island, including Westport and Wellington, (collectively $140 m); August’s Auckland flooding ($62 m); and September’s South Island windstorm ($20m).

-Provisional total. Provisional to final numbers to be confirmed for West Auckland and SI wind events.

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