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Managing Natural Hazards

The "think-piece" on this matter prepared by Local Governmnet NZ is timely, and a reminder that to do nothing is not an option - preparations must be made, particularly in this district, and it is long past time when national leadership should have been taken to ensure some degree of consistency and co-ordination irrespective of boundaries.

The Insurance Council has come out this week with a supporting document that should be a wake-up call to all those who who assumed that the big underwriters would simply go on accepting the comparatively higher risk that is entailed with covering natural disasters in this country. 

This is from the introduction:

 "This short position paper is for decision-makers and those who have an interest in ensuring New Zealand is better protected from natural hazards. New Zealand is one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to the impact of natural disasters for an economy of our size. The Canterbury earthquakes cost New Zealand about $40 billion or 20 per cent of the country’s GDP. We remain at risk from further earthquakes, volcanoes and tsunami. 2013 and 2014 were also among the most expensive years for weather-related events. Climate change will increase the risk of flooding in parts of the country and drought in other areas. Coastal areas will be more vulnerable as sea levels rise and we can expect more severe windstorms in the west."

The underlying warning that is soft-peddled in this document is that premiums are going to increase substantially, that local government reluctance to designate "at-risk" areas - particularly coastal hazard areas, and institute appropriate LIM action will not prevent insurers from taking such steps they deem necessary in their own protection. I suspect that the squealing that we have heard from those who fear loss of property value will not make a great deal of difference, and arguing over the lines on maps that we have heard over the last year or two will prove futile.

What we must keep in mind is the already implied or expressed wish of our Council to spread liability for whatever results as widely as possible throughout the community before or after any disaster, and regardless of the demonstrated foolhardiness of those who have purchased property now deemed to be at greater risk.

It is incumbent on every ratepayer to watch very carefully as policies are developed over the next few months leading up to the adoption of the new District Plan. Complacency will be rewarded with policies that penalise prudence, and relieve the burdon on East Coast seaside property owners in particular who now have more than freedom campers blocking their view to worry about.




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