2 Feb 2023

Auckland flooding: It will take years to process all insurance claims, says Insurance Council

8:02 am on 2 February 2023
Carla Caldwell at her house in Sandringham with flood damaged belonging shown in the background.

Carla Caldwell at her house in Sandringham . Photo: RNZ / Amy Williams

Insurers are bringing in extra staff from overseas and warning it will be years before all claims are settled for flood damaged homes, cars and contents in Auckland.

The Insurance Council says so far 15,000 claims have been lodged after flood events in the city but that it's just the start.

Its consumer affairs manager Sarah Knox said people forced out of their homes due to flood damage should make a long-term housing plan .

"A standard event for insurers, where it is a normal sized flood event, they will get through 90 percent of those claims within a year. But this event is of an unprecedented scale so it will take a long time," she said.

"People need to make sure that they are now looking at their temporary accommodation with their insurers and setting themselves up so that they are there for the long haul with their insurers."

Processing all the insurance claims will take years, Knox said.

"It's really difficult to be able to say how long is this going to take but it's not going to be days and weeks, we're talking months and years. This is an unprecedented event in terms of New Zealand's history for a flood event."

Some insurers were bringing in staff from overseas to help with demand, she said.

The country's largest insurer, IAG, has sent representatives to two community information hubs set up by Auckland Council, so flood-affected customers can discuss their claims in person.

The earlier people contacted their insurer, the better, Knox said.

"If people think they have damage to their home they should contact their insurer and let them know about any extra care they need," she said.

"Insurers are triaging and prioritising and they really need that information on people's circumstances so that they can do their planning and put people in the right order."

Sandringham resident Carla Caldwell was among those with insurance claims lodged.

When Tuesday night's deluge came she already had a clean up on her hands from Friday's flash floods, when a torrent of thigh-deep water took out fences and filled her garage.

Her car was a write off and she lost sentimental childhood items in the floodwater.

"I've been dealing with a little bit of extra flooding this morning and just moving a few things out of the garage that we hadn't really thought about too much, but that has now gone, the sun is shining, so we're just drying a few things out."

When the sky cleared, berms started piling up again with water damaged furnishings.

Caldwell was realistic about what's ahead.

"Because my car's a write off I'm expecting the payout from that quite promptly but in terms of the house and contents I'm expecting that to take a while, and while we're on the list for an assessor to come and look at the deck it's really not a priority compared to other people, so it'll be months."

Those looking at more than a clean up, and need a builder, could also be in for a long wait.

Master Builders chief executive David Kelly said it was too early to know the extent of damage to properties.

"We do know this is a really big event but previous large events, and Christchurch is the obvious one that comes to mind, is that more emerges over time. The initial estimates are an underestimate of just how much work needs to be done."

Builders would be in demand, he said.

"It's going to be a real question around the sequencing of the work but undoubtedly the sector will be under pressure."

For those with a house to clean, fix and file insurance claims on, having children return to school would be a relief.

Caldwell was waiting to hear if her daughter would return this week, after the Ministry of Education changed its directive to allow schools to reopen from today.

"She wants to help, it's not always very helpful and she worries when it rains so it would've been nice to have been able to drop her off and know that she was with her friends and having a great time."

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