Extreme weather: Insurers stung by second-highest claims since 1969

Extreme weather has cost insurers over $220 million this year - the second highest payout on record since 1969. 

The staggering cost comes with a warning that New Zealand needs to be better prepared to cope with the increasing frequency and intensity of storms. 

It's one thing to hear about climate change, but it's another thing to see it. In 2018 New Zealand has seen climate change in action - with tornados, cyclones, heavy rain and gale force winds pummelling all corners of the country.

"As we go forward in time, that's expected to become more frequent and become the norm for places around the country," says NIWA meteorologist Ben Noll. 

The numbers are proof - it comes at a very real cost.  

In 2017, the Insurance Council paid out $243 million and that was the largest sum for almost 50 years, so the 2018 payout is the second-largest in almost 50 years, says CEO Tim Grafton. 

The total amount paid out by insurers this year was $226 million to help Kiwis recover from the damage caused by these extreme weather events. 

The top three payouts were made following tropical cyclone Gita in February, cyclone Fehi, and the April storm that cost insurers a whopping $74 million.   

This year 33,000 claims have come through, Mr Grafton says - that's equivalent to a small city in New Zealand. 

It says if these events are happening every year, we will need to look at how we can reduce these risks and how are we going to cope with climate change.

If the sea level rises by 1m, around 126,000 buildings will be at risk, coming at a replacement cost of around $38 billion, according to NIWA. 

Now over the next 20 years, it's expected there will be a rise of around 0.2-0.3m, meaning a portion of those buildings, will be affected. 

Experts are making it very clear: Either we invest in change now, or wait for climate change to send us the bill.