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Church insurer expects huge bills

Andrea Fox for Stuff   |  04 Mar 2011  |

An insurance company that covers most of the churches in Christchurch expects damage to run into "hundreds of millions of dollars" and says restoring the shattered ChristChurch Cathedral could alone cost tens of millions.

Ansvar Insurance New Zealand manager David Leather said Christchurch churches would face increased insurance premiums after global reinsurers renewed annual treaties with retail insurers such as his company.

The global reinsurance industry's perception of New Zealand's earthquake risk would be influenced by the Christchurch event and Mr Leather expected reinsurers to "relook" at Wellington's exposure to risk.

Damage to Christchurch churches in the September 4 earthquake was estimated at $100 million.

It was too early to put a figure on the likely cost of damage from last week's earthquake but it was expected to be a lot higher, Mr Leather said.

Ansvar insures ChristChurch Cathedral. It was hoping to get its loss adjusters into the central business district next week but it could be a month before they got access to buildings to assess damage.

The company was sympathetic toward the view of Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker that the cathedral should be rebuilt, he said. "We will do what we can to co-operate."

It would also work with other church clients to fulfil their wishes for their damaged buildings.

Ansvar is a wholly owned subsidiary of Ecclesiastical Insurance, Britain's leading insurer of Anglican churches, which in turn is owned by Allchurches Trust.

Ansvar specialises in church insurance but also covers historic buildings, hospitals, education facilities, preschools and charities.

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