2021 sets record for insurance claims from extreme weather events

2021 will be remembered for a number of reasons - and not just for COVID.

It's been a record year for insurance claims for extreme weather events and the Insurance Council is warning costs will continue to rise if we don't reduce the risk.

Cleaning up in the blazing sun, it's a stark contrast from last week's storm in Banks Peninsula.

"Never seen anything quite as crazy as this, it was pretty mind-blowing what damage it did really," sheep and beef farmer Brad MacNamara tells Newshub.

A 1960s caravan was left ruined, putting a damper on Christmas plans.

"[I'm a] little bit devastated," holidaymaker Bill Holland says.

"People say, well it's unfortunate, but I think there's a message there somewhere about climate change."

Big weather events mean big clean-ups and big insurance bills.

"It was our biggest year in terms of losses in supporting the community, over $305 million worth of insured losses from extreme weather events," Insurance Council CEO Tim Grafton says.

And it's been a bumper year for weather.

The Westport floods cost $90m in losses for a population of just 4000. In Auckland, the Papatoetoe tornado tore roofs from houses while the west Auckland floods at the start of lockdown left homes and businesses underwater. And in Canterbury flooding turned farmland into rivers.

It's come with a steady increase in costs.

"We already know if we look back 10 years that this last five years is more than double the losses of the previous five years," Grafton says.

They're up from an average of $100m a year, to $250m - just for extreme weather events. To keep insurance sustainable and affordable we need to reduce risks.

"First of all we don't do dumb things by consenting developments in high-risk areas," Grafton says.

"We look at how we build so we look at finished floor levels that are always going to be above the flood plain level."

As for the billions of dollars worth of waterfront properties we already have, it'll be a case of defend or retreat.

"We can put our heads in the sand and ignore the situation, but the tide's not going to stop coming in," Grafton says.