Provisional results show that insurers spent more than $118.8* million last year supporting their customers recover from the impact of severe weather events, with over 18,000 claims made.

“What was looking to be a benign year for extreme events changed in the last few months when we saw some extraordinary losses emerge from unexpected quarters confirming the value of insurance to cover the unforeseen,” says Tim Grafton, CE Insurance Council of New Zealand.  

The results make 2019 the sixth most expensive year since 2010, with insurers paying more than $1.2 billion for weather related loses during the decade. 2017 was the most expensive year for severe weather events costing $246 million.

“The destructive power of hailstorms is seldom experienced, but the Timaru event on 20 November showed us the fierce effect of these storms when concentrated on urban areas. Costs are currently estimated to exceed $83 million making this the third largest event for the decade,” says Mr Grafton.

As a result of this storm, motor vehicles drove the highest number of claims in 2019, with 9,771 vehicle claims resulting in $56.4 million paid to customers. Close to 9,500 of these claims were for hail damaged cars in Timaru. House and contents claims were the second largest, with 6,211 claims costing insurers $29.6 million.

Looking at the top five events since 2000, Mr Grafton says the figures reinforce the increasing frequency and severity of storms in New Zealand. With climate change we will see an increase in the frequency of extreme weather events.

“Since 2014 we have seen a significant increase in events causing damage in the hundreds of millions. The need to adapt and take steps reduce risk is supported by wider climate research.

“For example, one scenario the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change project a global mean sea-level rise from 0.43m to 0.84 metres by 2100**, which means we can expect to see increased instances of damage to property as a result of extreme tide-storm events. This could affect many New Zealanders, with NIWA estimating that over 125,000 properties are vulnerable to a 1-metre rise in sea-level.

“This is just one of the areas of risk that New Zealand faces. It is clear that we must adapt to the changes we are seeing and take steps to reduce risks where possible to minimise the social and economic cost and impact to us all.”

5 biggest storms of this century

  1. 15-16 February 2004, Lower North Island Storms — $148.3m
  2. 3-7 April 2017, Cyclone Debbie —$91.5m
  3. 20 November 2019, Timaru Hailstorm – $83.3m*
  4. 11-12 September 2013, Nationwide storms —$77.1m
  5. 10-12 July 2007, Far North/Auckland/Coromandel — $72.7m

Breakdown of total severe weather cost by claim type 2019

Claim typeClaimsInsured loses ($m)
House and contents6,211$29,656,260
Business interruption244$6,452,520


* All figures provided are provisional.

** Numbers sourced from Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change https://www.ipcc.ch/srocc/

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