Government commits to all EQC inquiry recommendations

Author
Sam Hurley, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Mon, 31 Aug 2020, 2:32PM
The February 22, 2011 Christchurch earthquake claimed 185 lives, including 115 people inside the CTV Building. Photo / Mark Mitchell
The February 22, 2011 Christchurch earthquake claimed 185 lives, including 115 people inside the CTV Building. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Government commits to all EQC inquiry recommendations

Author
Sam Hurley, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Mon, 31 Aug 2020, 2:32PM

The Earthquake Commission's operations and legislation will change in response to a scathing inquiry into its handling of the 2010 and 2011 Canterbury disasters.

The Government also says it is also committed to implementing all of the recommendations in the report from the 16-month public inquiry chaired by former Governor-General Dame Silvia Cartwright.

The inquiry found the commission (EQC) was "poorly prepared" and saw Cantabrians develop a "deep mistrust" of government and a suspicion of motives by those in authority that will "take many years to overcome".

Today the Government announced its response, with the Minister for the Earthquake Commission Grant Robertson saying no other community should live through botched repairs and years of trauma and uncertainty after a significant natural disaster.

"This week marks 10 years since the Darfield-centred quake, which was the first in a series of devastating Canterbury earthquakes," he said.

"EQC was not prepared for the 469,431 claims it received following the quakes. There was also no plan for a managed repair programme, yet EQC was asked to implement one, while also processing claims."

Robertson said legislation is expected to be introduced in the middle of next year to modernise the EQC Act.

"The new Act will respond to many recommendations in the inquiry's report, providing certainty for claimants and agencies involved in responding to natural disaster."

Minister for Greater Christchurch Regeneration Megan Woods said the Government is committed to implementing all of the recommendations in the report, which was released in April.

The recommendations included a review of definitions and provisions in the EQC Act, as well as a review of the EQC cap of $150,000 (plus GST) on EQC residential building cover.

It also suggested EQC looks at its approach to claimants, including improving communication and its assessment of damage and managing repairs, along with its processes for settling claims, managing data and information, advance planning and preparedness, and dispute resolution.

Woods said the Government has already made changes to resolve some of the issues highlighted, such as providing access to affordable dispute resolution through the Greater Christchurch Claim Resolution Service and the Canterbury Earthquake Insurance Tribunal.

Other changes, she said, included introducing case managers and a commitment to becoming a more claimant centred organisation.

"But Dame Silvia has identified other areas for improvement which will also be implemented," Woods said.

The inquiry's 246-page report also highlighted dodgy damage assessments, botched repairs, bad communication and an adversarial approach to disputes.

Cartwright further found little evidence of support or collaboration from other government agencies or departments in managing the repairs.

"Given that this was the greatest emergency to confront New Zealand since the Second World War, I find the absence of a coordinated state response and forward planning for the housing recovery surprising," she said.

The February 22, 2011 earthquake claimed 185 lives, while the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes also damaged thousands of homes and properties, razed entire suburbs and destroyed much of the Christchurch's CBD.