The privacy breach at EQC should not only lead to a government review of how it treats information, but also signal a turning point for how EQC treats it’s “clients” in Canterbury. While the EQC were initially quick to front the breach last Friday, it’s super sizing over the weekend leaves them looking comically inept. The breach itself didn’t get bigger – they just couldn’t figure out how to read a spreadsheet. So instead of “just” 9,700 claims being released, it turns out they released the master document, with information on every claim in the $15,000 to $100,000 bracket. 

The scope of the breach may not have been realised if it hadn’t been released to the person it ended up with Bryan Staples, of Earthquake Services. He runs a company that offers services to Christchurch people who are frustrated with their treatment by EQC. So while he is in regular contact with the people at EQC as part of his job, there is still some irony in his company being better able to understand the magnitude of the spreadsheet they were sent than those that tried to triage the mistake.

Staples is front page of the Press this morning, and fronted on RNZ as well. I commend him for owning this issue, and coming out strong, especially when Brownlee has been trying his hardest to shoot various messengers rather than wear the blame himself. It’s what Gerry’s been doing for 2 and half years now. Not only is he responsible for the “recovery”, but he is also the minister for the EQC. I was going to suggest that people outside of Christchurch just don’t understand how inept EQC are, but then I remembered that John Campbell could make a show reel out of his EQC investigations alone. 

Dissatisfaction with EQC is widespread and well-known. They’ve had something like 11,000 official complaints lodged with them. If this was any other government department, there would be calls for investigations or heads to roll. But because of the “extraordinary circumstances” of the quakes, somehow EQC and the minister in charge – Brownlee – have got a free pass. This should be the end of that. The erroneous sending of a spreadsheet can be excused; what’s inexcusable is that the spreadsheet contained the information that almost 100,000 claimants have been demanding from EQC for years. The minister needs to ensure that the stonewalling, the obfuscation, the secrecy and the delaying tactics that EQC have employed are no longer tolerated. If he can’t do that, then he needs to go.