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Insurers could dodge millions of dollars in claims this week as hard-hit South Canterbury car yards find themselves underinsured for hail damage.
On Wednesday, the region was hit by a deluge of golf ball-sized hail, which smashed through roofs, destroyed greenhouses and did significant damage to cars in central Timaru.
Insurance broker Dale Rhodes, of Crombie Lockwood, confirmed there had been a large number of claims for damage and a "significant" level of property and vehicles was involved.
"We have clients with 30 to 40 cars across fleets that were all hit, so we're handing cases over to insurers and counting the cost as we go," he said.
Timaru has only three sizeable panelbeater repair shops and they were run off their feet yesterday.
"We've had over 1000 claims already. The phone has been ringing nonstop," Brown and Shipman co-owner Michell Shaw said.
"We're working with insurance companies to find out how they'd like to proceed."
Her partner and co-owner Jim Bracefield said the damage to some vehicles could cost from $1000 to $4000 and in the worst scenarios others would have to be written off.
Clients were finding also they had misinterpreted their insurance policies, he said, which was adding to tensions.
Panel beaters said that so many vehicles had been damaged, that insurance companies would have to set up hail shops and truck them to Christchurch.
"A lot require panel removal and replacement. We're doing it on a case-by-case basis," Mr Bracefield said.
Hundreds of new cars were also damaged, which were "straight insurance write-offs", according to several dealer principals spoken to yesterday.
Two of the city's biggest dealerships, South Canterbury Toyota and Autoworld, both had hundreds of new and used cars extensively damaged on their forecourts.
A South Canterbury Toyota spokesman confirmed that every one of its 100 vehicles on the yard had been damaged in some way.
"The extent of the hail was unexpected, and every one of our vehicles is damaged, from broken windscreens, broken panels and tail lights."
He said the dealership was working with its insurers to piece together the picture.
However, the majority of cars at local dealerships would not have been insured, local dealers say.
"We had 25 cars on the yard and none were spared. Many are buggered," Norfolk Motors' John Geels said.
He said Norfolk, like other dealerships, was in many cases not insured for damage caused by hail.
He said an Australian-based specialist hail damage repair team would be headed to Timaru soon and would "have their job cut out for them".
"We'll basically be shutting up shop until they get here."
Bay City Motors was also understood to have suffered damage to as many as 150 cars.
Vero said it had had 150 claims and was bringing additional team members to Timaru.
Insurance Council of New Zealand chief executive Tim Grafton said insurers were busy collating claims related to the event and the ICNZ would have provisional results as to its overall scale in about six weeks.
- By Chris Tobin and Brent Melville