Reinsurer says Christchurch a unique situation

CHARLES ANDERSON
Last updated 05:00 16/11/2013

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The complexity of issues surrounding the Canterbury earthquakes means one of the world's largest reinsurers has only paid out a quarter of what it owes to New Zealand insurers.

Global treaty manager of reinsurer Gen Re, Mo Tooker, told the Insurance Council of New Zealand conference this week that it was a situation not seen anywhere else.

"The complexity of the situation with land issues, with EQC, with multiple events - we don't see this complexity anywhere else in the world right now. So as we try to pay what we owe you in good faith the tail on our own exposures will be many, many years."

His company, owned by billionaire Warren Buffet's Berkshire Hathaway, had only paid out 26 per cent of claims in the 39 months from the first September quakes.

In contrast, it paid out 100 per cent of Chile's February 2010 quake in two years and 91 per cent of Japan's Tohoku 2011 quake in just under three years.

Insurance companies take out schemes with reinsurers in order to pay out claims.

This week The Press reported on a leaked report, prepared for the Southern Response board and Treasury. It appeared to back up comments from Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) boss Roger Sutton that insurance companies needed to pick up the pace.

The report with figures up to September said Southern Response expected to do $1.7 billion of work but remained unconvinced it could complete it all by December 2016 as forecast.

However, Insurance Council spokesman Samson Samasoni said collectively insurance companies were not falling behind targets.

The Cera survey and insurer projections were based on information insurers knew at the time but revelations like last week's Port Hills slope stability report from the city council would have an impact on the programme, he said.

"The people of Christchurch and insurers don't want any further surprises or delays, we all need a framework of certainty and Cera has a key role in helping to achieve that," Samasoni said.

He said the leaked Southern Response report was three or four months old and Southern Response now had more confidence in its ability to meet targets.

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- The Press

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