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Climate change forcing rethink of how New Zealand homes are insured

Climate change is forcing a rethink of the way we insure homes, with thousands of properties in the firing line.

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The Insurance Council believes the price tag for coastal homes should be reviewed as the risk of coastal erosion and flooding increases. Source: 1 NEWS

The Insurance Council believes the price tag for coastal homes should be reviewed as the risk of coastal erosion and flooding increases.

In Christchurch, demand is high for homes in the affordable suburb of Southshore.

Boarded by a beach and estuary, the suburb provides a perfect outdoor lifestyle - albeit one at risk of erosion and flooding.

“It’s kind of just a risk they’re happy to accept,” People and Property Real Estate’s Alex Fort said. “I kind of compare it to a waterfront in Wellington, or Auckland, or Sydney.”

There are 450,000 homes nationwide within one kilometre of the coast, which experts say will be hit more frequently by storms and rising sea levels.

Christchurch City Council principal programme advisor Jane Morgan said it’s “unlikely there would be immediate decisions to abandon any communities”.

“There will be things that can be done in the interim, and that might involve planning restrictions about new buildings in some areas or it could involve some protection works or adaptation,” she said.

Under the law, local councils are required to consider climate change.

Local Government New Zealand president Stuart Crosby said they are now “looking at a legal framework that all councils can apply consistently” across the country, “hopefully without challenge”.

“It’s a big issue to put notices on people’s property files, then look ahead to see what adaptation can take place,” he said.

The Insurance Council’s Tim Grafton said it’s about “having that greater transparency and information available so that people can make sensible decisions”.

“At the moment, we’re putting premium and price on houses that are close to the sea. We need to be rethinking that.”

With much of Christchurch built on swamp, 5000 homes are expected to see premiums quadruple by 2050.

“There is always an issue with getting insurance on a property in a flood management zone but that doesn’t just apply to South Shore and South New Brighton - it’s across the board,” Fort said.

The Christchurch City Council is already working with those living in flood zones, such as in Lyttleton Harbour.

Morgan said the council is looking into Salt Meadow, which "helps protect the shoreline from erosion”.