Insurers face criticism at Christchurch forum

6:52 pm on 21 March 2013

The Insurance Council has defended the industry's role in the Christchurch rebuild after insurers came under strong criticism at an earthquake forum in the city.

The heated debate took place at a forum, Seismics and the City, featuring speeches from politicians, business leaders, economists and scientists.

During the forum, an American professor, Jay Feinman accused insurers globally of playing dirty by delaying claims, not paying them out in full and then defending their actions in expensive court battles.

Christchurch-based Sarah Miles, who's written a book about the response by insurers to the earthquakes, then told the forum half the city's population is still affected by insurance delays, and that is slowing the rebuild.

But the chief executive of the Insurance Council, Tim Grafton, defended the local industry, saying while it might be profitable for American insurers to delay claims, that is not the case in New Zealand.

He says the delays are partly caused by overseas reinsurers.

Right rebuild will add to city's value

Another speaker, chief executive of Canterbury Development Corporation Tom Hooper, told the forum that if the rebuild is done right it will result in a city valued at $59 billion.

He says that could be about 50% up on what it is today and he cited a livable and attractive CBD, government investments and improvements to water management, as some of the key factors for a healthy recovery.

He says retaining Christchurch's young people will be crucial in keeping the city's economy strong.