As the New Zealand government commits itself to rebuilding earthquake-ravaged Christchurch, it appears the reinsurance industry, which has covered the country and Australia so profitably, may be trying to depart the scene.
The New Zealand government has released cost forecasts of the two earthquakes that have rocked the country in the past six months, estimated at about US$15 billion (Dh55.09bn) - and an economic impact that will last for years.
The prime minister John Key said this month the treasury's early estimate of the damage caused by last month's 6.3-magnitude quake was between $7.5bn and $11bn.
Damage from the 7.1-magnitude earthquake that hit the greater Canterbury region last September would cost about $3.7bn.
To put this into perspective, the two earthquakes will claim as much as 8 per cent of New Zealand's total GDP. Hurricane Katrina in the US came in at about 1 per cent of GDP, and the recent Queensland floods in Australia at 0.5 per cent.
The New Zealand quakes together would be the second most expensive natural disaster ever after Hurricane Ike, which struck the US coast in 2008 and cost $19.9bn.
The New Zealand government says that with its own funds and reinsurance arrangements, it will be able to pick up its share of the earthquakes' tab - about a quarter of the total cost.
Its biggest problem is the other future costs that have not yet been assessed and how it will make up for the shortfall in revenue while the country's second-largest city recovers.
While Christchurch counts the impact in human and economic terms, the reinsurance industry is said to be "burning" after the incredible run of natural disasters that have hit Australia and New Zealand. There is the very real prospect of the big players in the industry bypassing local insurers.
The threat has been signalled by the head of one of Australia's biggest insurers, the QBE Insurance chief executive Frank O'Halloran.
"There isn't a reinsurer out there who is not thinking through what its strategy will be for Australia and NZ," Mr O'Halloran says.
"So be prepared for pretty tough terms and conditions, and for pricing and higher deductibles from reinsurers. Some of them may not even want to reinsure businesses in Australia and NZ."
QBE says of the $1.65bn in total catastrophe allowances the company has allocated for this year, claims for the first two months have already reached $375 million, which includes $175m for the Christchurch earthquake, $100m for Cyclone Yasi in tropical north Queensland, and about $100m for the Queensland floods.
Mr O'Halloran says the most likely scenario is reinsurers will simply withdraw cover for floods, which account for one third of natural catastrophes in Australia.
If insurance companies are not able to share the risk of flood cover with reinsurers, it could spell the end of local insurers covering customers in flood-prone areas or render premiums unaffordable.
Another problem facing the insurance industry is the question of whether the second Christchurch earthquake was a unique event or an aftershock of the September quake. New Zealand's two biggest insurers - Insurance Australia Group (IAG) and Suncorp - are split on the issue, which has serious ramifications for their exposures.
IAG believes the two quakes are separate; Suncorp does not. Much will depend on seismic and ground surveys, but if the latest earthquake is deemed to be an aftershock of the first, both insurers will be shielded from further payments to the two reinsurers in Australia, Swiss Re and Munich Re. If they are judged separate events, both companies will be asked to pay twice. IAG has a $40m exposure for a single earthquake, while Suncorp's is $45m.
So far, both companies have paid hundreds of millions dollars on policies linked to floods, fires and earthquakes. Before the Christ-church earthquake, Suncorp was already dealing with 100,000 natural disaster claims.
Some experts in the industry believe the total cost for home insurance policies across Australia will rise across the board by 10 per cent, while rises for those directly affected by disasters such as Queensland's floods are likely to be "substantial".
All in all, when reinsurance payments are included, more than $2.8bn has been paid out to cover all disaster events.