New Zealand’s market hit by volcano, landslide and floods

December 10 2019 by Yvonne Lau

Yesterday (December 9), a volcano erupted on New Zealand’s White Island, which left at least five dead, eight missing and 31 in the hospital, including several in critical condition. The tour group on the island included visitors from the US, UK, Australia, Germany, China and New Zealand.

Under the GeoNet-managed NZ Volcanic Alert Level system, ranging from zero to five, the volcano had recently been rated level 2, indicating “moderate to heightened volcanic unrest”.

It is only the most recent weather-related catastrophe to affect the country – the island nation is likely to face a volley of claims in the coming months, as the aftermath and impact of various weather events surface.

Over the weekend in New Zealand, the country’s South Island dealt with storms that triggered landslides and floods – leaving 1,000 tourists stranded in the town of Franz Josef. There were no reported injuries, but transport and business disruptions occurred. Heavy rainfall also caused flooding in districts like Timaru, meaning evacuations and potential home damage.

In November, New Zealand’s Christchurch and Timaru regions were pelted with severe hailstorms.

Tim Grafton, chief executive of the Insurance Council of New Zealand (ICNZ), told InsuranceAsia News: “While it is too early to advise on exact claims levels from [the hailstorm events], early indications from insurers is that their call centres have been busy relating to hail damage. These storms act as a timely reminder for people to check their insurance covers and ensure they have the right protection in place.”

ICNZ noted claims estimates from the hailstorms won’t be available until around late December or early January 2020.

The aftermath of the volcanic eruption and weekend storms will likely bring more claims to surface in the new year.

New Zealand is a country highly vulnerable to natural catastrophes, in particular earthquakes – the 2011 Christchurch earthquake killed over 180 people and caused billions of dollars in damage. In June of this year, the government’s Earthquake Commission secured US$4.12 billion of reinsurance with the help of Aon, and announced survey funding to form an early earthquake warning system.