Householders spooked by New Zealand's worst natural disaster in decades are turning to their insurance companies in droves to check their policies are current.

Insurers spoken to say they have seen a surge in calls from customers querying policy cover and status, as Insurance Council of New Zealand figures show 40 per cent of New Zealanders are not insured or under- insured for contents.

Insurance Council spokesperson Terry Jordan said the numbers were significant and it was a safe bet to assume this fact had prompted a lot of queries to insurers.

"People are at best uncertain about insurance - most people don't even know who they are insured with - they think they are insured with their broker or their bank - they don't know who their underwriter is," he said.

The earthquake meant people were now "all of a sudden aware of the status of their insurance", he said.

"People underestimate the cost of replacing everything. They have their own clothing, jewellery, carpets, drapes, electronics - when you sit down and add it up it's huge."

Jordan estimates anyone who has (contents) cover for less than $100,000 is probably underinsured.

The earthquake had also thrown up other problems, he said.

"One person rang yesterday saying they had insured the house but there was a delay in them getting in so they rented it for a while but they didn't advise their insurer it was now a rental so they very well could have invalidated their insurance," he said.

AA Insurance head of operations Martin Fox said the earthquake had shown no-one was immune to the forces of nature.

The company had seen a 20 per cent lift in queries from members of the public about cover since the quake.

"They are definitely having a look at sums insured and what they've got under their policies - making sure they are up to date and getting any lingering questions they may have, answered.

"The good thing with buildings is that we cover up to the square meterage of the home so once you get the right square meterage you are always almost guaranteed of being protected."

With contents insurance it was more difficult to estimate the value of cover needed, he said.

The Earthquake Commission pays out - for those people who have insurance - the first $100,000 of claims for home damages and the first $20,000 on contents insurance, after which private insurance kicks in.

Jewellery, art and temporary accommodation were covered not by the EQC, Fox said.

IAG, which controls State and NZI, said the earthquake was a sobering reminder for people of the importance of having insurance.

"It has made people more aware that these sorts of events can happen anywhere," NZI acting executive general manager Jo Mason said.

There was strong anecdotal evidence to support the fact the earthquake had prompted many customers to review their cover, including businesses, she said.

"While many assets can be easily replaced ... this disaster has heightened the importance of personal and business insurance cover including business interruption (which may cover wages and rent), designed to keep businesses operational and in the same financial trading position as before a loss, as well as stock losses and building damage."

"At times like this, family, friends and colleagues are the most important of all, but for those looking to rebuild their lives and businesses, it is a sobering reminder of how important insurance is," she said.