27 Aug 2019

Government action demanded as insurance premiums rocket

7:09 pm on 27 August 2019

A Wellington apartment owner facing skyrocketing insurance premiums is demanding the government take over the natural disaster insurance industry.

Wellington City Mayor Justin Lester announces the Let's Get Wellington Moving project

The taskforce is being chaired by Wellington mayor Justin Lester. Photo: RNZ / Ana Tovey

Wellington City Council this week hosted the first of three meetings to give feedback to the government about the effect the price-hikes were having on the city.

The taskforce, chaired by Wellington mayor Justin Lester, is made up of representatives from local body corporates, engineers, scientists, property developers and insurance specialists.

It's a city hit by earthquakes, landslides, and flooding, and now owners are being hit by ever-increasing insurance premiums.

Wellington's Chamber of Commerce said premiums for a typical commercial office block have jumped 220 percent in four years - from $99,000 to almost $320,000.

CBD apartment owner Chrissy Hill said her natural disaster cover had gone up 57 percent on last year.

She said so much had been invested in Wellington's image as a having a vibrant downtown community - something that attracts people, and money, to the city.

But she said the continuing insurance increases were not sustainable, and if they continued it could gut the downtown.

"People just won't be able to afford to live in these apartments in the inner city."

Ms Hill said every dollar she had to spend on insurance went to large multinationals offshore rather than into the local economy.

Wendy Booth, who represents body corporates on the insurance taskforce, said she was happy local and central government had finally taken an interest in the issues facing downtown residents and property owners.

But she said the government must intervene to get more competition into the industry.

"Because we don't think there's enough competition in the market.

"There are four major [insurance] players that've got 85 percent of the New Zealand market - so we don't have a lot of options in terms of who we go to for insurance."

Ms Hill said the government needed to go even further and have its insurer - the Earthquake Commission - take over the natural disaster insurance industry.

Mayor Justin Lester said there were widespread calls at the meeting yesterday for the government to reassure homeowners nation-wide.

"Strong comments in our meeting was that [insurance] was a public good to the country.

"There needs to be certainty for the public - not just for [people's] safety but because we want to have broad insurance cover around. So that's one consideration for government."

The next taskforce meetings are in September and October - with its recommendations to go to government after that.