NIWA describes New Zealand’s climate as ‘complex, variable and with dramatically different climate regions.’

At FMG we know this diversity allows for a wide variety of farming and growing practices. While it’s a big asset—weather is also the biggest risk farmers and growers face.

We’re geared up and resourced to support our clients impacted by ‘larger scale events’. On average we see around 5 to 7 of these each year and we work very hard to provide our clients with the support they need when an event hits—it’s what we’re here for, says Jonathan Parsons, FMG’s Event Response Recovery Manager.

Last year, clients were impacted by five larger scale events totalling more than $27 million in claims. These were the Northland floods in July, the nationwide storm in September, October’s Lake Ohau fire, the November Napier floods, and the Motueka hailstorm in December.

First on the ground after an event hits

“The people in our claims and assessing team are driven by helping other people, and they’re very aware of the situations our clients may be in when they phone us,” says Assessor Manager, Hazel Bird.

FMG’s locally based teams also get on the phone or in the car to check on their clients. “Making sure our clients are safe and providing them with the right advice regarding their situation is our first priority”.

The next step is deploying some of FMG’s 19 mobile Assessors from around the country to an event. This is one of the advantages of being with a direct insurer—in most cases FMG is first on the ground after an event.

FMG’s Assessors are skilled in assessing a range of claims. “Our team is made up of former builders, engineers, mechanics, panel beaters, and agricultural and heavy vehicle specialists. We have a volunteer firefighter, a hobby Apiarist and Assessors who hold Loss Adjusting diplomas. We’ve also got great local supplier contacts that we can tap into quickly, many who are also clients,” says Hazel.

December’s heart-breaking hailstorm

The severe hailstorm that hit Motueka on Boxing Day last year was described by orchardist Andrew Drummond as ‘heart-breaking and financially devastating.’

Andrew and his partner, Julie, are the fifth generation to own and operate The Pines, where they grow apples, green and gold kiwifruit and hops. Over their family’s time on the property they’ve experienced many events.

Andrew says the hailstorm last year was the biggest and most widespread that the area had ever encountered.

“In the past, hailstorms have moved through quickly and are quite localised, but this was widespread and continued for 20 to 30 minutes”.

The Drummonds lost the entire apple crop and half the golden kiwifruit crop. Luckily, their hops were located elsewhere.

Andrew says he often tells others that if you can’t afford insurance, then that’s really telling you that you need it.

“We’ve been bitten when we had no cover and financially it nearly destroyed us. You need insurance just to ‘stay still’ in your business.

The Pines has been with FMG right from when it formed more than 115 years ago. “We’ve got so much credit for the FMG team. We’ve had plenty of support over the years involving hail as well as floods and general farm cover. After the hailstorm we got a call from our adviser, who we almost have a personal relationship with. He totally understood, said leave everything with him and that he’ll see us shortly. We know we’re in good hands.

“The focus now is getting next season’s crop the best that we can. We’re still doing cover sprays, maintaining the trees—jobs that will carry us through to winter pruning. The insurance cover means we have the funds to keep going”.

Meet our Assessors

Robert Milne, Senior Assessor

“I’m an automotive and a marine engineer by trade and I specialise in assessing claims related to agricultural vehicles, boats, and commercial and residential buildings. I was living on an island in Pelorus Sound when I saw the role at FMG advertised and liked the look of it. That was 16 years ago and at the time there were three of us—now we have a team of 19 mobile Assessors.

The most satisfying part of my role is being the ‘person on the ground’ and helping our clients after an event— getting their claim sorted and repairs underway as quickly as we can. After an event we get on the phone, and then we prioritise getting out to see them.

You’ve got to be empathetic in this role. I always put myself in our client’s shoes before I say anything to them. I really try and feel what they’re feeling.

During my time at FMG I’ve seen clients through the aftermath of earthquakes, fires, floods and many, many storms. I’ve experienced some of them myself. We know that mother nature is fickle when it comes down to it.

I was with FMG during the Canterbury earthquakes, based at our Christchurch office. During the earthquake, amongst others, I was in the building helping people out after the initial quake had stopped. As I walked home that day, I was able to help many people get out of buildings and passed out cards for them to contact me if I could help in any way. Some of these kind and generous people nominated me for a heroism award, which was presented to me by the mayor of Christchurch.

I’m now based in Blenheim and really enjoying it. The last event we had here was the December 26, hailstorm. The hail was 6-7 inches deep. I saw damage to patios, roofs, sheds and gutters filled with hailstones. We want to get the properties fixed quickly, in fact we bought up all of the Novalite roofing in Motueka in one day!”

Tim Kelly, Assessor

“Before I joined FMG I knew that somehow I wanted to combine my building and aluminium joinery skills with the rural sector. I’d spent a bit of time on-farm and enjoyed it, which is why the role with FMG is great for me. I also enjoy meeting and looking after people—that’s a big part of it.

Whangarei has always been a city with a rural history, which largely supports the farmers and growers around it. My family and I own a lifestyle block locally with a few sheep, our dog and the cats.

I’ve been with FMG for five years and I can say that every single year has been very different—there’s a huge number of stories I can tell. I recall 2016 was a big year with the Kaikoura earthquake and the Edgecombe flooding. Over 2016 and 2017 I counted that I was away from home for 19 weeks—my family have got used to it. I enjoy going to the larger scale events and helping our clients, and if I can find a local Lonestar restaurant or an Irish pub, then I’m happy.

There have been some challenging times such as, during the Edgecombe flood an elderly client whose wife had recently passed-away lost all his personal effects and treasured memories. He cried on my shoulder for 15 minutes.

I’m proud that FMG is also first on the scene when an event happens. A lot of the feedback I hear from clients is that by the time FMG are on to repairs, some other properties haven’t even been visited by an assessor.