The government is launching a service to help homeowners with insurance claims in the event of natural disasters

Tom Lee/Stuff

Cyclone Gabrielle caused severe damage to many homes.

The government is expanding a service used after the Christchurch earthquakes to help people with insurance claims following a natural disaster.

Trade and Consumers Secretary Duncan Webb said people whose homes have been damaged by a natural disaster – such as Cyclone Gabrielle and the recent North Island floods – could use the service to help and support them if their insurance claims are stuck remain.

The NZ Claims Resolution Service will be available from Monday to offer homeowners expert assistance with insurance claims following natural disasters, to avoid disputes, resolve problems and ensure claims are settled as quickly as possible, he said.

The nationwide service was modeled after the Greater Christchurch Claims Resolution Service and Residential Advisory Service, which helped 10,000 homeowners resolve insurance company claims following the Christchurch earthquakes.

* EQC has had almost 2300 claims from floods and cyclones and the number is still growing
* BNZ is the last of the big banks to offer interest-free emergency loans to cyclone victims
* ANZ’s newest bank offers interest-free overdrafts to flood/hurricane victims, while ASB only charges 0.01%

“We are expanding a service that has worked well in Christchurch to make it a permanent nationwide service for all forms of natural hazards,” Webb said.

“Dealing with a damaged home can be extremely stressful for homeowners and it is important they have access to the support they need.

“Early intervention before anything goes wrong and independent technical and legal advice are key. The new National Service is now making this support available to all homeowners affected by natural disasters.”

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Hayley Greig from Whirinaki has spent days cleaning up her flooded home and is incredibly grateful for the help she and her family have received from volunteers.

Webb said the service was “a game changer” in Christchurch.

He said homeowners should always try to work things out with their insurer first, but contact service if they’re stuck or need assistance with unresolved claims.

Insurers welcomed the new service, citing the growing number of climate-related extreme weather events that resulted in an unprecedented number of insurance claims.

Tim Grafton, Chief Executive of Insurance Council of New Zealand Te Kāhui Inihua o Aotearoa, said that although the vast majority of claims following major events have been processed smoothly, the new service is invaluable as it gives people too often free and independent insurance-related services advice is a very stressful time for them.

“This is particularly important when dealing with a complex claim. This understanding can often prevent misunderstandings and delays in claims settlement,” Grafton said.

“Where appropriate, and particularly where there is a disagreement about the value of a claim, such a service can help avoid protracted disputes and assist in recovery.”

Funded by the Department of Business, Innovation and Employment, the service would provide homeowners with case management support, as well as access to legal, technical and health services tailored to individual and whānau needs.

Case managers would be available for those affected by the Auckland floods at community support centers from Monday. For those affected by Cyclone Gabrielle, support would be available locally as soon as possible.

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