Frequent storm batterings wallop insurers in 2013

NICOLE MATHEWSON
Last updated 05:00 28/01/2014

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Heavy flooding, wild winds and bitter snowstorms made 2013 one of the most expensive years for New Zealand's insurers.

Kiwis claimed for more than $174 million of weather-related damage last year, with the wind storm that swept the country in September cited as one of the most expensive weather events in the last 45 years.

Figures released by the Insurance Council of New Zealand (ICNZ) today put the storm's cost to insurers at $74.5m, including $42m for damage to commercial property and $3.1m for business interruption claims.

Domestic-related losses added up to $18m and damage to motor vehicles cost $9.5m.

ICNZ chief executive Tim Grafton said 2013 was the most expensive since 1984, when $155m worth of damage was claimed, and second only to 2004, when $181m worth of claims were made.

Other significant events last year included flooding in Nelson and the Bay of Plenty in April, which caused $46.2m of insured losses, and a snowstorm that caused havoc across most of the country in June, creating $39.3m worth of claims, mostly from Canterbury and Otago.

Grafton said climate change scenarios suggested stronger winds and higher levels of rain for areas that were already prone to flooding.

"This underlines the need for New Zealand to focus on pre-disaster mitigation and adaptation strategies to minimise economic losses and social disruption."

Federated Farmers adverse events spokeswoman Katie Milne said 2013 was a tough year for farmers across the South Island, but the most challenging conditions came from widespread drought early in 2013.

"With the wind you knew what had happened, you just had to go on and deal with it. The drought though, it's not something right there, it creeps up on you . . . [it's] insidious and quietly destructive."

The cost of the September wind storm - although "more traumatic at the time" - did not affect production as much as initially feared, but farmers were still feeling stressed by the continuous run of extreme events.

"It'll be nice if we can have a more moderated season where there's no catastrophes . . . let everyone get back on their feet," she said.

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