JOHN Yes in the case of EQC, so the Earthquake Commission has enormous funds, 15 billion dollars, largely invested offshore very logically, because of course if there is an earthquake you don’t want those funds invested in the country that’s affected. They have about six billion in cash. So this is well and truly affordable from that perspective.
But if one goes to the EQC latest annual report they say:
EQC has custody of the Natural Disaster Fund, around $5.6 billion of public money.
The EQC balance sheet and statement of equity also use the $5.6 billion figure. I can’t see another $9 to $10 billion hiding in the accounts. Possibly it is a reference to their reinsurance, which is treated as an expense. But I can’t find out the total value of any reinsurance. In the notes to the accounts, they mention:
Legislation recognises that EQC’s premiums may be inadequate to meet its liabilities in any one year by enabling it to set aside any annual surplus free of tax in the Natural Disaster Fund and, in the case of a very severe catastrophe (that exceeds both the Fund and reinsurance recoveries) by providing for a Crown Guarantee. The Commission currently has the capability to cover a 1‑in‑1000-year event with an estimated value of up to $8.1 billion before having to call on the Crown Guarantee.
That is still some way off $15 billion.
Now it is possible the PM was given the wrong figure. But it is also possible the $15b is correct, and I am just missing something.
If anyone can clarify, that would be useful.
UPDATE: A government official has e-mailed to say that the EQC report is correct – reinsurance kicks in after the first $1.5b of costs, and if you take that into account the total value of the fund is a bit over $8 billion. They also say that at this stage the best estimate of the call on the fund is $1 billion.