21 Feb 2023

Bill to make insurance claims easier after natural disasters passes third and final reading

9:35 pm on 21 February 2023
Flood damaged home illustration

Photo: RNZ

A bill which will allow making insurance claims after natural disasters easier has passed its third and final reading at Parliament on Tuesday night.

It comes as New Zealand experiences one of its largest natural disasters, Cyclone Gabrielle.

The Natural Hazards Insurance Bill clears up the rules around making multiple insurance claims on mixed or multi-use buildings, and makes it easier for people with damaged retaining walls, bridges, and culverts to understand what compensation they could receive.

It also establishes a claimant code of conduct, and provides for a disputes resolution service.

The changes will not take effect until July.

Earthquake Commission Minister Deborah Russell said the changes would mean future New Zealanders making a claim did not have to go through the same traumatic experiences as the people of Canterbury.

The bill also changes EQC's name to Toka Tū Ake, or the Natural Hazards Commission.

Earlier this week, the government introduced the New Zealand Claims Resolution Service to help avoid disputes, resolve issues, and settle claims for homeowners after a natural disaster.

The service is modelled on the Greater Christchurch Claims Resolution Service (GCCRS) and Residential Advisory Service (RAS), which were used during the Canterbury earthquakes and proved to be successful with insurance companies.

Commerce and Consumer Affairs Minister Duncan Webb said the majority of 10,000 users found it highly effective for resolving claims with their insurer.

"Loss of trust, lack of technical expertise or just people being overwhelmed and anxious and over it. What this did is it gave people assistance, it came alongside, helped them," Webb said.

"So 90 percent of the people who have used this said they'd recommend it to someone else to go there if they had an insurance problem after a natural disaster."

Case managers for the service will be on the ground at community hubs in Auckland.

It will also be available locally for communities affected by Cyclone Gabrielle as soon as possible, but they will still be able to use the phone service.

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