Climate change and the withdrawal of insurance

Slow and sudden onset thresholds for private insurance retreat under climate change in New Zealand

Coastal hazards are escalating with climate change. In particular, coastal homeowners can expect both sea level rise and more frequent and intense coastal storms. However, we continue to see demand for housing through new coastal residential development and intensification of existing urban areas on the coast. This suggests that climate change related escalating coastal hazards are not yet fully reflected in home-owners decisions to purchase and renovate coastal property.

Lighthouse in a storm

Consequently, climate risk may not currently be incorporated into the price of residential coastal property.

Evidence from overseas suggests that high insurance premiums and the unavailability of insurance has a stronger impact on private decision making than the uncertain risk of extreme events. Drawing on this, this project will explore how coastal housing markets impacted by climate change may respond to “insurance retreat” – if insurance becomes unavailable.

The project will identify those locations most likely to lose access to insurance within the next few decades (as the probability of extreme events increases). For this, we are conducting extreme sea-level analysis for the Auckland region and Tauranga coastlines, and extreme rainfall analysis for the Coromandel coastline, followed by coastal flood inundation mapping for these regions.

The project will estimate the direct economic losses on residential property of an extreme coastal storm making landfall in Tauranga City, to determine whether this size event could trigger reinsurance retreat (the withdrawal of the international insurers, who insure our local insurance companies) from other coastal locations in New Zealand. We are also developing a model to price future climate risk, using valuation methods from the real estate industry. Using this information, we can explore how to better inform coastal property owners' decision-making with respect to climate change.


This project in the media:
Coastline concern: insurance costs, Afternoons with Jesse Mulligan, RNZ
Hamilton really might be the city of the future as seas rise, Stuff
Kiwis can expect more premium increases in high-risk areas, Insurance Business NZ
Liquid Assets | Climate Change’s effect on coastal property The Project, TV3
The Final Meltdown NZ Geographic
Beach Road Stuff interactive
Storm damage: Should we re-think coastal living? Afternoons with Jesse Mulligan, RNZ
High price of coastal living Build
Climate change and what it means for your insurance bill Q+A Business Podcast with Tim Grafton
Coastal properties may lose insurance Afternoons with Jesse Mulligan, RNZ
The risks of living near the ocean Newsroom
How climate change could send your insurance costs soaring
What you need to know about the previously withheld climate report
Climate change and insurance: Expert reaction, Science Media Centre
Insurance: the canary in the coalmine of climate change? Idealog
How can NZ insure homes for climate change? NZ Herald
Sea level-prone homes set for insurance cutoff, RNZ
Heads in the sand, houses in the water, Newsroom
Breaking the ice, NIWA