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Josh Lindsay: How the Kaikoura earthquake changed insurance forever

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Slides on the coastal road south of Kaikoura in 2016. Photo/ Mike Scott

Opinion

The 2016 Kaikoura earthquake with a magnitude of 7.8 caused extensive damage and disruption. It was an event that changed the way the EQC responded to natural disasters. Five years later, Chief Readiness Officer Josh Lindsey explains how lessons learned have helped shape the way EQC responds to natural disasters.

Every natural disaster is different, and every community affected by a disaster has different needs.

The Canterbury earthquakes demonstrated that despite best efforts, the EQC was not as well equipped as we could have been to deal with a natural disaster event of this magnitude and scale. As an organization, we used to handle about 4,000 active claims per year, but we are now having 450,000 active claims from this earthquake sequence.

In fact, we have struggled to overcome these pressures. For our clients in Canterbury, whose lives have just been turned upside down, our response has added many unnecessary complications and anxiety from what was already a stressful time.

We knew we needed to learn from the Canterbury experience and adjust our approach in response to future natural disasters, so when the Kaikoura earthquake struck, we took the opportunity to adapt our delivery method.

The Kaikoura earthquake had some similarities with the Canterbury earthquake sequence. For example, there has been significant damage to infrastructure, a large number of claims, and a real sense of isolation for many in the community.

EQC received nearly 40,000 claims for buildings, land and contents for this event.

EQC Chief Readiness Office Josh Lindsey. The attached photo

We have had the opportunity to work closely with the private insurance industry and pilot an approach that will enable most clients with natural disaster claims to be managed directly by their insurance company.

This collaborative approach is designed to put the customer at the center of the experience, striving to simplify the claim process for them as much as possible.

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There is no doubt that Kaikura was a great job. We needed to work closely with our insurance company partners to support an effective approach and ensure our clients receive the best possible results. Forging partnership and camaraderie across the industry helped us overcome the challenges we faced together.

As a result, it was positive to see 75 percent of customers satisfied with the claims process, and that in the first year alone, 80 percent of claims were settled and closed, with less than 5 percent reopening.

Working alongside the Kaikōura insurance companies provided a greater understanding and appreciation for how each other worked, and as a side effect created a stronger sense of connection.

Five years later, all of this has helped us shape and improve the processes by which claims are settled today.

State Highway 1 in Kaikoura, near the Kikringo Fault, was severely damaged in the 7.8 Kaikoura earthquake. The attached photo

The 2020 public inquiry into the EQC identified areas that needed to change and was part of that about developing a single point of contact for our clients.

Our response in Kaikoura has helped us reimagine our business and implement a new natural disaster response model, which was launched this year.

The form sees private insurance companies manage EQCover claims on our behalf. As a result, it enables a unified and interconnected insurance response and recovery system.

The form itself provides:

• A single point of contact for the customer and a simplified service that will enable affected New Zealanders to focus their energy on getting back on their feet when they need it most;

• A modus operandi that generates greater efficiencies in the overall insurance response and recovery, which means clarity sooner to customers;

• Better data sharing and loss modeling ability, enabling the sector to be more resilient and prepared for various natural disaster scenarios.

We are proud to put New Zealanders at the center of this new model and will continue to work hard as an industry to make the claims process as easy as possible.

It’s positive to know that the approach we took at Kaikoura – one that simplifies the experience for our customers – is now our new normal.

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