27 Feb 2023

'No loss' - red-stickered Muriwai homeowner in insurance limbo

From Checkpoint, 5:10 pm on 27 February 2023

A Muriwai homeowner says she is in insurance limbo after cliffs crashed down either side of her house during Cyclone Gabrielle, leaving her property red-stickered.

While house itself was untouched, it was deemed too dangerous to live in.

The landslide trapped and killed two firefighters about five houses down the road.

Jacqui Schubert told Checkpoint her house remained cordoned off due to unstable land and any decision on its future could be months away.

Schubert said she was unable to access insurance payments or other financial assistance.

"It's a difficult time, we're completely in limbo. We're safe and we're warm and we've got a roof over our heads but we just don't know what's coming next."

Schubert didn't hear the landslide but received an evacuation alert on her phone and the family left quickly, taking only a few things with them.

"Directly behind us is still covered in vegetation but either side of us it just clay of escarpment essentially, everything that was there... is gone.

"Our property is completely untouched."

The family was not allowed to go back to the property under any circumstances and the house was in the evacuation zone.

They were let into the house for half-an-hour within the first three days of the cyclone when they grabbed clothes, underwear, photos and passports, Schubert said.

"Our insurance company has told us that to-date we... technically haven't suffered a loss so we're not entitled to any kind of payouts."

Schubert said the company acknowledged the power was out for three days and a claim has been made for food that was in the freezer.

"Virtually everything we own is in that house and we're just making do and going out and buying new things."

The insurance company was waiting on the council and geotechnical engineers to decide whether the family would be allowed back in, Schubert said.

"There's absolutely nothing that we can do."

She didn't know how long it would take for a decision to be made, but presumed it would take months.

"If the area could be made safe, we'd be back there in a heartbeat.

"But as it is now and as I feel at the moment, with the state of what I can look up from the back door and see, no, I don't want to live there."

Slips at Muriwai following Cyclone Gabrielle.

Landslips in Muriwai. Photo: RNZ / Finn Blackwell

In a statement, AMI said it discussed a claim with Schubert on Friday after it was lodged on Thursday.

"We asked her if she required alternative accommodation and she stated that she did not."

It said she advised she wanted to wait until access to the property was authorised so she could reassess if any additional claims were needed.

AMI said it emailed her on Friday telling her to contact them with any questions about her contents claim and if she wanted to lodge a property claim.