'Talk to your insurer' Central Otago snow rescue group told

By Jono Edwards

Some of the group are escorted from the bus that delivered them to the Roxburgh Rugby Club after the rescue. Photo / Otago Daily Times / Peter McIntosh
Some of the group are escorted from the bus that delivered them to the Roxburgh Rugby Club after the rescue. Photo / Otago Daily Times / Peter McIntosh

Uncertainty remains over whether the 4WD enthusiasts who were rescued from the Old Man Range on Monday will be able to claim insurance on their abandoned vehicles.

The group of 38, who are mostly Invercargill and Winton-based, were saved from their 13 snow-buried cars on the mountain above Roxburgh.

The vehicles were left on the snowy mountain.

Insurance Council of New Zealand insurance manager John Lucas said most private vehicle insurance policies only covered on-road cover.

"It is an add-on.

"The main message is to talk to your insurer before you go off-road.''

If the vehicles were left on the mountain over winter, any resulting vehicle harm would be seen as "gradual damage'', which most insurance policies did not cover, he said.

It was standard for policies to have a "duty of care'' clause which required owners to take reasonable precautions to avoid damage, he said.

"It depends the wording of the policy whether this would apply to them.

"It would insure against weather.''

With standard vehicle insurance, no claims would be able to be made in their situation, he said.

Central Otago 4WD Club president Curtis Crawford, of Roxburgh, said its members had insurance through the New Zealand Four Wheel Drive Association which covered off-road incidents and would "potentially'' cover the 38 rescued people.

"But if you were negligent, and went up in bad weather, I wouldn't push it.''

It was a "kamikaze mission'' to go driving there last weekend, he said.

"Our club generally stays away from there for winter.

"Even in summer, if it's raining, it can become impassable.

"It's a track for very experienced drivers.''

Mr Crawford is also a Central Otago Land Search and Rescue team member and was involved with the rescue operation.

The vehicles would probably be left through winter, he said.

"You get areas of thaws where the sun can get it.

"But I don't see us being able to get them anytime soon.

"Snowcats wouldn't be strong enough to tow them. You'd need to dig them out.''

The vehicles may not need to be written off if enough antifreeze was used, but it was a case of "wait and see'', he said.

- Otago Daily Times

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