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Consumer NZ: Affected by Cyclone Gabrielle? Know your rights


21 Feb, 2023

Consumer NZ has produced advice for people impacted by the recent cyclone.

“Like everyone else, we were shocked and saddened to see the devastation caused by Cyclone Gabrielle,” said Rebecca Styles, Consumer NZ’s research team leader. “As people now face the daunting task of cleaning up and making claims for the damage, we want to help by equipping New Zealanders with information about their rights.”


Fixed charges for essential services

Thousands of New Zealanders lost access to essential services such as power, phone and internet because of the cyclone. While service providers’ terms and conditions generally say they’re not liable for any loss caused by an act of God, like a cyclone, Consumer thinks it’s unfair for people to pay for a service they did not receive.

“Given how much people are struggling in the aftermath of the cyclone, we would like to see providers offering a credit or refund to customers for the days they were without vital services,” Styles said.


Insurance tips

Your insurance policy may cover you for unexpected extras.

“If you have comprehensive house insurance and need to find temporary accommodation, you may be able to claim towards the cost of boarding fees for your pets.”

Many communities lost power resulting in inedible food in fridges and freezers.

“Your contents insurance could cover any food you had to throw away because of power outages. If possible, take photos and make a list of all the food you had to throw out – this will make the claims process easier.”

You could also be covered for any contents lost or damaged away from home.

It is important to contact your insurer as soon as possible. Collect as much evidence as you can to back up your claim – this could be via videos and photos – but only if it's safe to do so.

“If your property was damaged in an earlier event, and gets damaged again soon after, record the new damage and report it to your insurer,” she said.

A free resolution service has been set up by the government to help people with insurance claims in the wake of the Auckland floods and Cyclone Gabrielle.

“The New Zealand Claims Resolution Service (NZCRS) will provide support with insurance claims to avoid disputes, resolve issues and ensure claims are settled as quickly as possible. We encourage any homeowners who have concerns about their insurance claims, or the claims process, to contact NZCRS.”


Earthquake Commission (EQCover) for flood and storm damage

If you have private house insurance which includes fire insurance (most policies do), you have EQCover. This provides some cover for damage to residential land if your property is damaged in a storm or flood. Contact your house insurer – it will manage any EQCover.

EQCover is provided for land under or within eight metres of a home as well as some outbuildings, such as a shed or garage. It will cover the cost to repair damage to the insured land, or the value of the land – whichever is less.

Where a landslip has occurred, EQCover will cover damage to the home or surrounding land which has been caused by the landslip.


Electricity rights

People who need equipment powered by electricity to survive are known as medically dependent consumers.

“If you or someone in your house is medically dependent it is really important that you let your electricity retailer know as soon as possible. Your electricity retailer can’t guarantee your electricity supply in a severe weather event but, for medically dependent consumers, your retailer should make special efforts to minimise the risk of unexpected power outages.”


Power lines

The responsibility to repair and maintain power lines depends on where the damaged lines are.

“At your property there is a point of connection where your cable or overhead line joins the lines company’s, this is usually at your property boundary,” Styles said. “You are responsible for the maintenance of the line from the point of connection to the meter box. You may also be responsible for lines on your private land – like farmland or a private accessway. You can ask your lines company to fix your damaged lines – but it may charge you.”


Your rights and advice

Consumer has a dedicated hub featuring information about accommodation bookings, flight disruptions and other matters New Zealanders should be aware of in the aftermath of Cyclone Gabrielle. Visit consumer.org.nz.

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