New Zealand must build back better

Aotearoa New Zealand must not lose the opportunity to build back better from the catastrophic extreme weather events of the past two weeks, says the Insurance Council of New Zealand Te Kāhui Inihua o Aotearoa.

ICNZ chief executive Tim Grafton says that repairing and rebuilding property and infrastructure in high-risk areas to the same specifications as the past “will only lead to a repeat of the dreadful consequences we have all seen. Indeed, it could be worse with more extreme and frequent weather events as a result of climate change.”

“Now is the moment to reset and ask questions about whether to rebuild in some locations and, if we do, how to rebuild better to better protect ourselves.”

Grafton says, in a statement, that most communities have infrastructure built decades ago “that may have been fit for the hazards of the time, but are now demonstrably inadequate. Massive and sustained investment is required to address that.”

But every dollar invested in risk reduction will save many more dollars in future economic costs, keep people safer and reduce the stress, trauma and loss to the community from similar events in future.

“Future development needs to take a long view – houses are built to last 50 years or more. It is time to draw a very clear line in the sand and not consent to build in dumb places and in a way that can’t cope with what’s to come.”

ICNZ spoke at Parliament’s Environment Select Committee considering the Natural and Built Environment Bill [on February 16, 2023] which, amongst other matters, contains draft provisions to reduce risks from natural hazards as a condition of rebuilding after a disaster. Unfortunately, this legislation does not fully come into effect for several years.

The organisation says the question that should be asked now is whether we can afford to wait till this Bill and accompanying legislation to replace the RMA, the Spatial Planning and Climate Change Adaptation Bills, take effect.

ICNZ advised the Select Committee that the insured losses from the recent extreme weather events would exceed the comparable losses for all of 2022, which was a record year for insured losses from extreme weather. Total economic losses from recent climate events will run into the billions of dollars.

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