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Vast majority of businesses affected by quake in New Zealand will not file claims


August 13, 2013   by Canadian Underwriter


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A small minority of business surveyed by the Wellington Employers’ Chamber of Commerce (WECC) in New Zealand expected to make an insurance claim as a result of a 6.5-magnitude earthquake that hit off the coast in July.

Few businesses filing claims from NZ quake

Businesses in the region appear to have mostly come off lightly from the July 21 quake, notes an Aug. 9 statement from WECC. Of the 117 businesses responding to the survey, conducted from July 26 to Aug. 2, just 5% noted they would be making an insurance claim.

A far greater percentage, almost two-thirds, of businesses was affected in some way. Asked what form that impact took, WECC reports 63% of those polled cited “staff disruption as a reason” and 52% noted “workplace closure due to building inspection.”

The two top reasons (in terms of frequency) cited by respondents were that the business was closed for a day awaiting engineer reports, and water damage and/or broken glass and/or minor damage to building.

Of the 45 respondents who provided a damage estimate, one business estimated $100,000 and six estimated in the range of $1,000 to $10,000 (all currency in New Zealand dollars). With regard to business disruption, one respondent put the estimated tab at $50,000 to $100,000; four reported $10,000 to $50,000; and 11 noted as much as $10,000.

“The brilliant news was the lack of damage and injury,” Raewyn Bleakley, CEO of WECC, noted in the statement. “Apart from a few obvious places, most people were back in the city and working within a couple of days. Most businesses in the survey – 98.5% – said they had returned to business as usual by the week after the quake.”

Asked if the business was prepared and if there was anything that could have been done differently, the responses were as follows:

  • Yes – business was prepared: 55.8%;
  • Possibly not – could have done better: 26.1%;
  • No – unprepared: 9%;
  • No – unprepared, but have since made changes: 9%.

With regard to rating authorities’ response to the quake, 18.6% of those surveyed said social media and radio were informative, but 9.3% noted radio, social media and website information was poor. As well, 11.6% of respondents stated that Wellington City Council needed to inform about particular building closures, and only 4.7% said the city recovered quickly.

Bleakley reports that WECC is reviewing its procedures around emergency management to make sure its systems and communications were right, and is urging members to do likewise.

The earthquake hit off the coast of New Zealand, in Cook Strait about 54 km south southwest of Wellington. “Parts of the city were without power for several hours. Non-structural damage, including broken widows, bottles and fallen items from store shelves have also been reported,” EQECAT Inc. noted at the time.

“Most of the buildings are designed in accordance with modern seismic design codes and many older buildings have been retrofitted to improve their seismic performance,” Arash Nasseri, senior engineer of research at AIR Worldwide, noted in a press release. “The engineered buildings in Wellington have performed as anticipated, with most of the damage occurring on exterior cladding or windows and to contents,” Nasseri said.