Around a third of New Zealand’s population live in areas affected by Cyclone Gabrielle, many without power

Cyclone Gabrielle has caused massive flooding in parts of the North Island. The worst-hit regions are Hawke’s Bay, Coromandel, Whangarei, and Northland. Around a third of New Zealand’s population live in these affected areas and about 250,000 people are without power currently. 

Insurers are already dealing with more than an estimated 40,000 claims so far arising from New Zealand’s largest climate event to date over 27 January and 2 February.

Tim Grafton, chief executive of the Insurance Council of New Zealand said insurers were already mobilising staff from across Aotearoa, Australia and further afield to help deal with claims from earlier in the month.

Complex claims will take longer

A large number of claims are expected in addition to those already registered. Where there has been significant property damage, or where demolition and total rebuilds are required, claims settlements are expected to take longer.

A handful of complex claims, especially where land damage will need to be addressed first, may take longer still, Grafton warned.

Suncorp Group CEO Steve Johnston said dedicated resources would support local teams in assisting customers impacted not only by the current weather system moving through the country, but those still recovering from the recent flood event across Auckland and surrounds.

“In addition to losses from the Auckland flooding event being capped at NZ$50m, net of reinsurance cover, the retained cost of any potential second declared event in New Zealand is NZ$25m.”

As of 13 February, approximately 11,500 claims had been received across the Group’s Vero and AAI brands as a result of the Auckland flood event that unfolded at the end of January 2023. 


Building back better

The Council added that New Zealand must not lose the opportunity to build back better from the catastrophic extreme weather events of the past two weeks.

“Repairing and rebuilding property and infrastructure in high-risk areas to the same specifications as the past will only lead to a repeat of the dreadful consequences we have all seen. 

”Indeed, it could be worse with more extreme and frequent weather events as a result of climate change,” Grafton said.

“Now is the moment to reset and ask questions about whether to rebuild in some locations and if we do how to rebuild better to better protect ourselves.”   

“Most communities have infrastructure built decades ago that may have been fit for the hazards of the time, but are now demonstrably inadequate. Massive and sustained investment is required to address that.”

But every dollar invested in risk reduction will save many more dollars in future economic costs, keep people safer and reduce the stress, trauma and loss to the community from similar event in future.

“Future development needs to take a long view – houses are built to last 50 years or more,” contined Grafton. ”It is time to draw a very clear line in the sand and not consent to build in dumb places and in a way that can’t cope with what’s to come.”