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NZ insurers warn on tax rises as cyclone losses mount

Insured losses caused by cyclones Debbie and Cook in New Zealand have reached $NZ84 million ($110 million), putting the country on course for a costly year for flood damage claims.

The tail end of Debbie – which had devastated areas of Queensland and NSW – crossed the country from April 3-7, causing losses of $NZ66.4 million ($87 million).

Cyclone Cook, from April 13-16, cost $NZ18 million ($23.6 million), the Insurance Council of New Zealand (ICNZ) says.

“We’re not even halfway through [the year] and well on the way to one of the most damaging in recent years for extreme weather events,” ICNZ CEO Tim Grafton said.

Flood losses from significant events have reached $NZ135.5 million ($177.6 million) this year, including a March storm dubbed the Tasman Tempest.

ICNZ says the damage highlights the folly of increasing insurance costs through rises in government taxes and levies, raising the risk low-income households will not be able to protect themselves.

Flooding in April caused residents of Edgecumbe to be evacuated after a river burst a levee.

“In towns such as Edgecumbe, where there are significant numbers of residents not insured, the Government is sending all the wrong signals by increasing the cost of insurance,” Mr Grafton said.

“The weather bombs we’ve had this year highlight the importance insurance plays when disaster strikes.”

Rises in the earthquake and fire services levies would mean people with house and contents insurance would be taxed more than $NZ450 million ($589.8 million) annually without including the 15% GST applied to the premium, Mr Grafton says.

Provisional data for Debbie and Cook shows insurers received 6400 house and contents claims costing $NZ61.6 million ($80.7 million), 1016 commercial material damage and business interruption claims worth $NZ16.8 million ($22 million) and 549 motor vehicle claims costing $NZ4.8 million ($6.3 million).

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