'Insulting' insurance puts boat shed in doubt

The Hoopers Inlet boat shed photographed in the 1930s. Photo: Supplied
The Hoopers Inlet boat shed photographed in the 1930s. Photo: Supplied
The Hoopers Inlet boat shed features in this image of Aurora Australis. Photo: Ian Griffin
The Hoopers Inlet boat shed features in this image of Aurora Australis. Photo: Ian Griffin

The owners of the storm-battered Hoopers Inlet boat shed want to rebuild, but may have to rely on crowdfunding after their insurer baulked at the bill.

The photogenic Otago Peninsula boat shed, which has been viewed around the world in aurora images, collapsed during a storm earlier this month.

The shed has been owned for almost 40 years by Graham Smith (86), formerly of Dunedin, who now lives in Christchurch and is battling health problems.

His sons, Roy and Ian Smith, said the Smith family had been holidaying at Hoopers Inlet since a relative built the family's first crib there in the 1880s.

The shed was built by another man, Herb Lanham, about 1926, and bought by Graham Smith in the early 1980s.

Ian Smith said both the family crib and the boat shed held many special family memories, and the shed's fate was ''extremely distressing and sad for all the family''.

''[It] feels like part of us is about to die with it. Our lives have been hugely influenced by Hoopers Inlet,'' he said.

Roy Smith said the family had been ''very touched'' by offers of support and wanted to rebuild, but had been knocked back by an ''insulting'' offer from insurer, IAG.

The boat shed was actually damaged beyond repair in last July's storm, which also brought significant flooding to Dunedin, Mr Smith said.

An engineer's report commissioned by IAG after that storm concluded the shed was a write-off, but IAG decided it was at the end of its life anyway, ''therefore we have suffered no loss'', Mr Smith said.

The family disagreed, pointing to a structural integrity report provided to the Otago Regional Council just two months before the July storm, which noted it was ''structurally sound''.

IAG's own engineer had not inspected the shed until five months after the storm, he said.

The family had been ''battling'' IAG for a ''fair settlement'' since then, he said.

An IAG-commissioned builder initially quoted ''somewhere in the high $20,000s to low $30,000s'' to rebuild, but the figure escalated to $75,000, Mr Smith said.

On January 22, just days before the latest storm finished off the shed, IAG offered the family $26,766.25 - well below the latest quote of about $80,000.

''We believe their [IAG's] offer is just plain wrong ... Their method seems based around ... wearing you down and on saving them as much money as they can get away with.

''Their offer is so low it's insulting.''

Whether the offer was accepted would be up to Mr Smith's father, and ''he is very unwell and may well concede''.

''I would like to fight for a fair settlement.''

IAG claims operations general manager Garry Taylor, responding to questions late yesterday, apologised for delays assessing the claim, which was ''complex ... due to the nature of the structure''.

IAG and the Smith family had agreed to seek another report from an independent engineer, and IAG would accept the results, Mr Taylor said.

Mr Smith said a crowdfunding campaign could also help cover any ''significant shortfall'' from IAG.

The boat shed could also be opened to the public - such as for an exhibition of aurora photographs - even if it remained in the family's ownership, he said.

''But rest assured, one way or another we want to rebuild the boat shed to its former glory.''




Since when does the rest of society need to compensate a well off family to replace their play toys?
Give a little pages for the less fortunate of the world have credibility at times. Some other people just don't get over their own sense of entitlement.