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No decision on insurance premiums: Suncorp

NZN 24/11/2016 Jonathan Underhill

Suncorp Group's New Zealand arm can't yet say whether premiums will rise further as a result of the Kaikoura earthquake.

Suncorp's Vero brand has received more than 1,000 claims related to the magnitude 7.8 quake, which cut off the seaside town and damaged buildings in downtown Wellington.

"It's too early to say what will happen to premiums as a result of the Kaikoura earthquake," said Adam Heath, executive general manager portfolio and products, Suncorp New Zealand.

"The priority right now is to look after our customers who have been affected by the quake".

Suncorp NZ customers were already facing premium hikes "that are, on average, single-digit percentages" and were a result of "the increase in the frequency and cost of motor vehicle claims, rising construction costs affecting houses and increasing frequency and cost of portable devices in particular affecting contents policies", he said.

As the tally of damage rises, cross-party talks are underway ahead of the introduction to parliament next week of legislation to enable urgent repairs in the Kaikoura region, which Prime Minister John Key says is likely to be similar to that passed after the Christchurch quakes, allowing repair work to be fast-tracked.

Key said the people of Kaikoura are starting to realise the "enormity" of the task ahead.

Engineers are still checking buildings in Wellington.

Three Wellington City Council buildings are being demolished and work has begun to demolish the office block at 61 Molesworth Street near the parliament. Wellington's single largest office building, the 15-storey Asteron Centre with tenants including Inland Revenue and the Civil Aviation Authority, has also been evacuated.

Hutt City Council said part of Lower Hutt's Queensgate Shopping Centre may be demolished, including car parking and the Event Cinemas. A New World supermarket and part of the Angus Inn Hotel across from the complex were evacuated on Thursday.

Suncorp's shares fell immediately after the November 14 earthquake but have since recovered, while last week general insurer Tower said the quake could shave up to $7.2 million from earnings, with the impact limited by its $700 million reinsurance programme.

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