Preparing for the future
A year on from the record floods in February, Environment Southland’s Organisational Performance and Audit Committee last week received a report relating to the review of the council’s disaster reserves and insurance cover for Southland’s flood protection schemes.
Environment Southland chairman Nicol Horrell said the council’s reserves were essential to ensuring resilient communities. The council needed to rebuild its reserves to prepare for natural disasters like the February floods.
Currently, Environment Southland mitigates against the cost of natural disasters using a combination of infrastructure insurance, Government support and council disaster reserves.
“As climate change impacts continue to make their presence felt, it’s likely insurance will become increasingly difficult to secure. We won’t always be able to rely on it and it’s important the council plans to maintain an adequate level of reserves.”
The total cost of the February 2020 floods to Environment Southland was approximately $4.4 million; $0.5m of which was met by reserves tagged for this purpose. $1.5 million of the cost was met by insurance, and $2.4 million was absorbed internally by reprioritising catchment work programmes.
Environment Southland is focused on supporting communities to be more resilient in facing the threat of climate change. To do that its flood protection assets need to be insured and maintained so they can meet predicted sea level rise.
“The council will review how we prepare for natural disasters, consider whether the current mix of reserves and insurance is the best option going forward, or if we need to transfer some of that risk, traditionally carried by insurance, to our own disaster reserves.
“The 2020 floods caused a region-wide state of emergency, threatened towns, and resulted in evacuations. They tested Southland stop banks to their limits and showed how essential they were. The investment in our stop bank infrastructure from 1978 is still delivering dividends. Without them the flood would have been a very different story.”
The floods were costly for the entire region, with the Insurance Council of New Zealand statistics show claims for the Southland region totalled almost $30 million, with the majority coming from commercial claims.