16 Jul 2014

Bill for storms set to top $100m

5:56 am on 16 July 2014

The country is on track for a $100 million bill from damage caused by severe weather events.

The figure comes as Northland cleans up after the country's fifth big event this year - which caused widespread flooding, power cuts and road closures.

Roads were reopening on Thursday but floodwaters lingered in St Albans.

Flooding in Christchurch in March. Photo: RNZ / Nicola Grigg

Last year, insurers paid out nearly $175 million in weather-related damage claims, making it the second most expensive year since records began in 1968.

This year is set to be another costly one; extreme weather events have already cost insurers about $77 million in the first half of this year - and the Northland storm is only going to add to that bill.

Local Government New Zealand president Lawrence Yule said the damage caused by weather could be soul destroying for councils.

"They're very, very disruptive. Not only for the people that have had flooded houses or farmers who can't feed animals those type of things, but repairing the infrastructure is a complex and costly exercise," Mr Yule said.

National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research forecaster Chris Brandolino said there could be more heavy rainfall in next few months as easterly winds brought in more warm air from the subtropics.

New Zealand could expect more extreme weather, from flooding to droughts, in the future, he said.

Change of approach needed

Lawrence Yule said if severe weather was going to become more frequent, then councils and the Government needed to look at what could be done.

"If you look at the Tasman District, for instance, in the last two years it has probably had three or four serious floods.

"If that's going to happen, what are the changes that need to be made in terms of the level of design for storm water control, where people live in relation to flood plains. That will need to be looked at in the medium to long term."

Mr Yule said authorities also needed to look at how the country responded to extreme weather and how to fund the damage caused.

Insurance Council chief executive Tim Grafton said New Zealand needed to spend more money on measures aimed at reducing the impact of natural disasters.

"For every dollar invested in pre-disaster planning it will save many more dollars in the cost of what happens after a disaster strikes."

If nothing was done, there would be more claims and higher losses, which could lead to higher insurance premiums, he said.