Executives at New Zealand's biggest insurer are watching the Christchurch fires with concern and a top disaster recovery expert flew down there this morning.
Craig Dowling, head of corporate affairs for Insurance Australia Group (IAG) New Zealand, said a number of steps had already been taken, he said.
"We're still in the wait-and-see mode. We've got one of our senior leaders down there," he said, referring to disaster recovery chief John Chandler who he said, until the fires, had been working on post-Kaikoura earthquake business.
IAG paid out $5.7 billion for the Canterbury earthquakes and said last year it has settled about 93 per cent of those claims by number.
Dowling said it was impossible to estimate how many fire damage claims might be lodged.
"We still don't know. We know there's lots of land damage and there's damage to homes," he said.
IAG's Christchurch office is in Show Pl, Addington and Dowling expressed concerns about staff working from there.
"Our first concern has been with people who are impacted directly or indirectly, particularly through the closure of Cashmere High School and the impact of the smoke. But we're also concerned with how we can play a wider role and with anything we can do," he said, citing relationships with organisations such as Red Cross and emergency management groups.
"Christchurch people have been through a lot already. They're a pretty resilient bunch," he said.
The business insures about 40 per cent of city residences, he said, noting its dominant market position, after it bought AMI which had been Christchurch-headquartered.
IAG's brands in New Zealand include State, NZI, Lumley, NAC, DriveRight and Lantern. It also has shareholdings in First Rescue and Emergency (NZ) (50 per cent owned), which manages State Roadside Rescue, the vehicle breakdown service. It has 25 per cent in Loyalty New Zealand, which manages the Fly Buys loyalty programme.
IAG underwrites general insurance for ASB, BNZ Westpac and The Co-operative Bank.
By June 30 last year, the New Zealand business had completed over $5.7b of claim settlements for the Canterbury earthquakes. About 93 per cent of all claims by number had been fully settled by that date, it said.
IAG underwrites more than $A11b of premium per annum here, in Australia and Asia.