Sea level rise, housing and insurance: Liability, compensation and related policy options


This project looks at the question of sea level rise and insurance. It investigates the “tipping points” at which insurance companies might decide to refuse insurance to coastal property owners, and asks, what happens next?

To what extent can or should homeowners rely on the EQC, or on local or central government, to compensate them if their homes become uninsurable, or uninhabitable, due to sea level rise, or because of associated climate risks like storm surges or coastal erosion?

One of the key trends in international climate litigation is in trying to establish who is liable for taking (or not taking) adaptation measures. For example, in a recent Australian case, residents sought damages from their local council, both to pay for shoreline protection and to compensate them for the loss of property value from rising seas. They argued that the loss was in part the fault of the council and its earlier inaction.

The project will also investigate the Crown’s Treaty of Waitangi obligations in relation to sea level rise. Māori communities are likely to be disproportionately affected by sea level rise, with many rural Maori communities situated along the coast. Where communities have limited economic power and access to finance, and little or no insurance cover, effective policy options for uninsurable Māori housing are critical.

Project contact: Catherine Iorns Magallanes, Victoria University of Wellington
Project budget: $100,000
Project duration: July 2017 – June 2019

This project in the media:
How climate change could send your insurance costs soaring
Our slow-moving disaster as sea level rises NZ Herald
Who should bear the cost of a changing climate Insurance Business Mag
How can NZ insure homes for climate change? NZHerald
Sea level-prone homes set for insurance cutoff, RNZ
Heads in the sand, houses in the water, Newsroom
Climate change and insurance – Expert Reaction, Science Media Centre


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