16 Oct 2013

Climate could push up insurance costs

11:14 am on 16 October 2013

The Insurance Council says if New Zealand does not adapt to changing climate conditions, insurance premiums could go up or cover could be withdrawn in some areas.

It says this year's extreme weather events, including this week's storms, are expected to cost insurers more than $100 million, making it the most expensive year since 2004.

Insurance Council chief executive Tim Grafton says New Zealand has to spend more money on measures that reduce the impact of natural disasters because that will mean less damage and fewer claims.

Mr Grafton says if nothing is done there are going to be increased claims and higher losses, which could lead to higher premiums and cover being withdrawn.

He told Morning Report a country-wide hazard mapping system would help insurers establish pricing risks and premiums.

Mr Grafton says there was about $83 million in claims for extreme weather events to the end of June this year, and that is expected to rise above $100 million.

Research shows better preparation needed

Mr Grafton says with research from scientists such as Sir Peter Gluckman's report on climate change showing New Zealand could be subjected to more flooding in future, better preparation is needed.

He says the west coast of New Zealand could be subject to storm surges and high tides and the country's infrastructure needs to adapt quickly, especially with cities like Nelson often inundated.

Mr Grafton says mapping would stop insurance companies from adopting the sorts of policies now used in Australia where premiums have become unaffordable in some flood-prone areas.

Mr Grafton says it would also help places recover more quickly after a natural disaster.

He says some councils, including Otago Regional Council, have done some natural hazard mapping allowing people to see the hazards that could affect them, but there needs to be a coordinated and consistent approach.