Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Economics of disaster recovery and earthquake insurance: Five essays on New Zealand

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posted on 2021-12-08, 02:59 authored by Nguyen, Cuong Nhu

The Canterbury earthquake sequence (2010-2011) was the most devastating catastrophe in New Zealand‘s modern history. Fortunately, in 2011 New Zealand had a high insurance penetration ratio, with more than 95% of residences being insured for these earthquakes. This dissertation sheds light on the functions of disaster insurance schemes and their role in economic recovery post-earthquakes.  The first chapter describes the demand and supply for earthquake insurance and provides insights about different public-private partnership earthquake insurance schemes around the world.  In the second chapter, we concentrate on three public earthquake insurance schemes in California, Japan, and New Zealand. The chapter examines what would have been the outcome had the system of insurance in Christchurch been different in the aftermath of the Canterbury earthquake sequence (CES). We focus on the California Earthquake Authority insurance program, and the Japanese Earthquake Reinsurance scheme. Overall, the aggregate cost of the earthquake to the New Zealand public insurer (the Earthquake Commission) was USD 6.2 billion. If a similar-sized disaster event had occurred in Japan and California, homeowners would have received only around USD 1.6 billion and USD 0.7 billion from the Japanese and Californian schemes, respectively. We further describe the spatial and distributive aspects of these scenarios and discuss some of the policy questions that emerge from this comparison.  The third chapter measures the longer-term effect of the CES on the local economy, using night-time light intensity measured from space, and focus on the role of insurance payments for damaged residential property during the local recovery process. Uniquely for this event, more than 95% of residential housing units were covered by insurance and almost all incurred some damage. However, insurance payments were staggered over 5 years, enabling us to identify their local impact. We find that night-time luminosity can capture the process of recovery; and that insurance payments contributed significantly to the process of local economic recovery after the earthquake. Yet, delayed payments were less affective in assisting recovery and cash settlement of claims were more effective than insurance-managed repairs.  After the Christchurch earthquakes, the government declared about 8000 houses as Red Zoned, prohibiting further developments in these properties, and offering the owners to buy them out. The government provided two options for owners: the first was full payment for both land and dwelling at the 2007 property evaluation, the second was payment for land, and the rest to be paid by the owner‘s insurance. Most people chose the second option. Using data from LINZ combined with data from Stats NZ, the fourth chapter empirically investigates what led people to choose this second option, and how peer effect influenced the homeowners‘ choices.  Due to climate change, public disclosure of coastal hazard information through maps and property reports have been used more frequently by local government. This is expected to raise awareness about disaster risks in local community and help potential property owners to make informed locational decision. However, media outlets and business sector argue that public hazard disclosure will cause a negative effect on property value. Despite this opposition, some district councils in New Zealand have attempted to implement improved disclosure. Kapiti Coast district in the Wellington region serves as a case study for this research. In the fifth chapter, we utilize the residential property sale data and coastal hazard maps from the local district council. This study employs a difference-in-difference hedonic property price approach to examine the effect of hazard disclosure on coastal property values. We also apply spatial hedonic regression methods, controlling for coastal amenities, as our robustness check. Our findings suggest that hazard designation has a statistically and economically insignificant impact on property values. Overall, the risk perception about coastal hazards should be more emphasized in communities.


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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Author Retains Copyright

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Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Doctor of Philosophy

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Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Economics and Finance


Noy, Ilan; Ulm, Eric