New Zealand’s stormy summer resulted in five times more insurance claims than last year, according to AMI, State and NZI Insurance’s latest Wild Weather Tracker.

The IAG brands received 41,596 weather-related claims between 1 September 2022 and 28 February 2023, compared to 8,293 claims during the same period last year, according to The Tracker, which collects data on weather-related claims every six months.

Of those claims, 23,497 were for the North Island floods and 14,396 were for Cyclone Gabrielle.

Claims from the two storms continue to climb. As of 2 May, AMI, State and NZI customers have lodged 25,000 claims for the North Island floods and 21,000 for Cyclone Gabrielle.

Amanda Whiting, CEO of AMI, State and NZI, said the weather events had resulted in a surge of claims nationwide.

“Those two events alone have generated more weather-related claims than what we received for the whole country, for the previous two and a half years. The impact these storms have had on our country is profound,” Whiting said.

A nationwide survey conducted alongside the Tracker found that New Zealanders’ concerns about weather events are at record highs. 83% of respondents are now concerned about storms, compared to 45% before the recent summer weather. 

The upper North Island saw the greatest increase in concern, rising from 44% pre-storm to 86% post-storm, closely followed by the lower North Island, which rose from 46% to 86%.

Despite weather warnings, only 64% of people in the upper North Island and 35% of those in the lower North Island were prepared for either storm.

Those who didn't prepare said it was either because they didn't think they'd be affected or because the events weren't in their area. 

Whiting added: “What we saw this summer was a stark reminder that storms are traumatising events that put people’s lives at risk.

 “However, the survey gave a sense that people felt they wouldn’t personally be impacted, which - as we can see from the claims numbers - is simply not true.

“These events are not only becoming more frequent, but they are also impacting more people, some repeatedly, and the level of property damage is significant. Clearly, our climate is changing, and our future weather patterns will be different to what we have seen in the past.”

Calls for change

In August of last year, AMI, State, and NZI Insurance presented a three-step plan to the government, urging immediate action to keep people safe from the effects of climate change.

“That plan is more relevant than ever,” said Whiting.

“It’s important to identify the most flood-prone locations across New Zealand, agree to stop building in these places, and to invest in flood protection infrastructure.

“The events of the summer dramatically emphasise what we all knew from the recent flooding in Nelson, Westport and Tairāwhiti - that it is vital we make more progress in this work to keep people and communities safe.

“Inaction won’t just result in higher insurance costs, but in the further loss of lives and livelihoods and in the fear and trauma of loss in communities across the country.

“We want to keep insurance available and affordable for all. But ultimately, we need to reduce the risk and impact of flooding. We are actively working with government and other key stakeholders, and we are ready to play our part.

“In the meantime, we will continue to support our customers by working through the huge volume of claims from this summer’s events. We are moving at pace, but some claims are complex to resolve, especially where there has been extensive land damage, as these are often reliant on the involvement of a range of technical experts and councils,” Whiting added.

June 2023