Archives for category: EQC

The Government’s handling of the rebuild hit a new low point, as the latest report from CERA into EQC repairs is propaganda that would make Kim Jun Il proud. After an MBIE report looked at 14 property repairs and found that 13 of them had issues, CERA commissioned an “independent report”. The methodology for this report is extraordinary:

[A] sample of 100 houses was chosen from a pool of 200 properties selected by the Earthquake Commission (EQC), IAG, Southern Response, and Housing New Zealand.

Homeowners with open complaints against EQC or issues that were still being remediated by EQR were exempt from the survey.

So the houses are chosen randomly from a pool which contains only houses that are offered up by the bodies managing the claims, and explicitly removes ones where there are complaints.

Allowing insurers to “self select” which homes could be included in the survey was “clearly ridiculous”, and homeowners were frustrated that many of their concerns were not being considered.

More than 65,000 homes had received earthquake repairs in Canterbury since 2010, but the four organisations were able to pre-select only 200 of those for the survey.

This is like Sepp Blatter saying that his hands are clean of corruption, whilst standing on a pile of brown envelopes, overflowing with cash. What did they think this was going to achieve? Did they think no-one was going to notice? This is the behaviour befitting the dictator of a bureaucratic Eastern Bloc backwater, not a supposed 21st century democracy. EQC, and the Minister responsible, Gerry Brownlee, need to be held to account for this farce.

On Morning Report this morning, they went to a very unusual commentator for an opinion on National and Labour’s campaign ads. John Ansell. You may remember John Ansell from the Iwi/Kiwi billboards of 2005 – or you may have tried to purge his backwards, racist view on the world from your memory (recommended). His ideas were too crazy for National, so he went to ACT. His ideas were too crazy for them too. How he ended up on our public broadcaster is a mystery to me. He said a couple of loony things, but this takes the cake:

God is obviously a member of the National Party where [sic] as he um flattened the people’s republic of Christchurch and that created the economic growth that the Nats are now boasting about.

This comes hot on the heels of Cameron Slater calling earthquake victims “scum”. The people of this city deserve more than this. I join in my colleague Clayton Cosgrove’s calls for Prime Minister John Key to condemn these comments while he is in Christchurch today. As Clayton says:

That is absolutely disgraceful and hurtful to all those Cantabrians who have been toughing it out for the last four years … Mr Key may claim Mr Ansell doesn’t have direct links to the National Party anymore, as he does with Mr Slater, but that’s not good enough. John Key must show leadership and condemn the comments. That’s what New Zealanders expect from a Prime Minister.

Meanwhile, the insurance industry are reporting increased profits, and the Insurance Council “hope” to have “most” claims completed by the end of 2016 – 6 years since the first quake! The so-called recovery isn’t delivering for the people who need it most, and the attitudes of those close to the National Party show why they aren’t concerned about changing this any time soon.

 

Last week, Paulette Barr saw the Prime Minister in Riccarton mall and bravely approached him with her story. It was a bleak story, and got plenty of media attention – front page of the Press, story on Campbell Live. A week later, some good news – Barr’s claim has now been “fast-tracked”, and Christchurch Central MP Nicky Wagner has become involved.

While I am happy for Barr – no-one should be going through these situations almost 4 years after the quakes – this story actually makes me more upset. It’s shouldn’t be like this. You shouldn’t have to rely on a chance encounter with the Prime Minister to get any movement on your claim. There are thousands of cases like this in Christchurch right now – how can we get them all “fast-tracked”? On the same day that we get the happy resolution story, we also have this – a homeowner living in a 3 degree house after repeatedly being told different things by EQC.

What we need in Christchurch is an admission the EQC and insurance process for fixing houses is fundamentally broken. We need the Minister of EQC, Gerry Brownlee, to answer questions as to why it has got to this point. Instead of merely patching up cases when they reach the media, the whole culture of these organisations needs to change. Their role is to help people. They shouldn’t have to be guilted into doing so by the media.

photo from the Press, by Iain McGregor

Yesterday, the Prime Minister was in town for a big-ticket announcement in a bigtop tent. Unfortunately, events got in the way, and the convention centre has been over shadowed by an impassioned plea made to John Key while he was out looking for votes in Riccarton Mall. Paulette Barr was at her wit’s end, so decided the best way to get some traction on her case was to put it to the PM directly:

“I was just saying, ‘Look, what can you do for us, it’s three years. We had liquefaction come right through our house. They had to remove the skirting boards because the liquefaction had gone in and contaminated the place,” the 61-year-old said.

Barr and her house-mate, Maureen Doherty, 74, said they had put their lives on hold since February 2011 as they waited for an over-cap EQC and NZI private insurance claim to progress on their Hills Rd property.

While Key might think he’s coming down to sing of the brighter future song sheet, he’s finding that people still have the helplessness blues. It’s a sure sign of how desperate the situation has become, how broken the process of dealing with EQC and insurance has become, how out of touch his Minister Brownlee has become, that the only way people think they are going to get anything resolved is by appealing directly to John – either the PM Key, or people’s champion, Campbell.

Crocogerry from Porcupine Farm

 

The Press reports that the much-touted surplus was in large part due to reduced spend on the Canterbury rebuild:

A surprise $300 million boost to the Government’s trumpeted Budget surplus relies mainly on a cut to the Earthquake Commission’s insurance bill, Treasury forecasts show … Budget documents show the improvement to $372m was given a $200m boost from “lower insurance expenses after an updated valuation of EQC’s insurance liabilities”.

If you look through Keith Ng’s awesome budget visualisation page, you will also observe that money is being pulled out of CERA. So while the Minister is busy denying that the floods in Christchurch have anything to do with the quakes, his government is putting the squeeze on EQC and CERA so that Key can boast about being “back in black”. The council is in a $534 million dollar hole – in part due to the anchor projects that the Crown has forced upon them – but instead of offering a helping hand, the government is pushing them towards it’s ideological obsession, asset sales.

Remember back to the day after the February 22nd quake, when Key said that this was a journey we would walk together? Well, National has hopped into a Crown limo and sped off, without even looking back to see how we’re doing. The message is clear; if you care about the rebuild of this city, about ensuring that people whose lives have been turned upside down through no fault of their own can get the assistance that they need, that they deserve, and that they were promised, then you need to throw out this government on September the 20th.

While the people of the city were trying to deal with a 1 in a 100 year weather event, they may have missed another rare occurrence: an apology from Gerry Brownlee. After he launched a bombastic attack on the Christchurch Labour MPs, labeling them “despicable” for a photo that was taken with leader David Cunliffe and Aranui resident Dot, he was forced to back down. Labour’s Earthquake Recvoery spokesperson Ruth Dyson put it well when she said this:

He should have checked his facts before he came out swinging. It is astonishing that only now he has stumbled upon a further 85 cases of elderly and vulnerable Cantabrians in rebuild limbo. Three years on he has yet to grasp the magnitude of the number of people who are still stranded in wrecked homes and want to move on.

Brownlee’s behavior in the last couple of weeks has been even more aggressive than usual. On Saturday, he launched an extraordinary attack at the council with an opinion piece in the paper.  Just this morning, he was at his belligerent best, talking over quake and flood victims on Nine to Noon. After three years of nature doing it’s worst to the people of this city, they need their political representatives to treat them with respect, not contempt. If Brownlee can’t see that the people of this city are at their wits end, and that shouting isn’t going to help anything, then maybe he should think about passing the portfolio on to someone who still shows some empathy to the poor, patronized people of Christchurch.

As most of you will probably know, Christchurch has been battered by an horrific storm for more than 24 hours now. It went from being a “once in 50 year” event to a “once in a 100 year” event. While the rains are starting to ease now, the clean up is yet to start – especially for those in the hardest hit areas of St Albans, Richmond, Shirley and Mairehau. It’s an unfortunate, unnecessary reminder that as we head into our fourth year after the quakes, there are still people who are living in cold, damp, crowded conditions whilst they wait for a resolution. Surely after 3 years, even having one person in this situation is one person too many. But far from actively working to resolve the issues, EQC seem to be deliberately obfuscating:

As Christchurch endures flooded streets, NBR is still awaiting a response to questions about long-awaited flood plain modelling and flood remediation in Christchurch sent to EQC a week before today’s devastating flooding. EQC spin doctors are hampering the process, attempting to stonewall NBR’s reporter with a complaint over “aggressive questioning”, according to EQC stakeholder communications manager Iain Butler.

Perhaps even more worrying than the delay itself is the attitude of the EQC and their communications manager:

“We are working away on what I consider a comprehensive response to Chris’s questions but I would like some assurance that the final product of this exchange will be fair, balanced and accurate – in other words, some intervention from head office may be required before the final article goes to print.”

Some intervention from head office. This sounds to me as though the EQC want to have editorial control over what a newspaper writes about them. This is a frankly Orwellian response to what were valid questions asked by a journalist simply doing their job. Instead of trying to constantly stifle and suppress information, EQC needs to be far more open and up front. I have friends who live in a TC3 area around Avonside, whose claim has been further held up waiting for the flood plain modelling. They, and others like them, have a right to know what is happening to their house, and soon – before there is another natural disaster, be that flood, snowstorm or earthquake. EQC – and the Minister responsible, Gerry Brownlee – need to remember that they serve us, not the other way around.

There was a story in the Herald business section comparing the “rockstar” New Zealand economy to the “Celtic Tiger” economy of (pre-crash) Ireland. These couple of sentences interested me:

But ASB economist Chris Tennant-Brown said the aspects of the New Zealand economy that were doing well were not debt-funded. A key driver of growth this year was expected to be the Canterbury rebuild which was being funded by insurance payouts. “I don’t see a risk there from an Ireland-style debt crisis.”

The last time I checked, the rebuild was forecast to cost a good $40 billion – and almost half of that ($16 billion) is coming from the Government. I also recall that the Government steadfastly refused to introduce a quake levy, instead choosing to borrow to fund the rebuild (it was something like $200 million a week at one point, wasn’t it?) But it’s ok – a bank economist says that the rebuild isn’t debt-funded. We’ll be fine.

p.s. I’d also note that the other star performer in the NZ economy – the dairy sector – is on the back of farmers agribusiness companies who have leveraged themselves to the hilt to convert Canterbury sheep farms to wetlands for cows.

Another day in Christchurch, another angry protest, another story on Campbell Live. This one was a small but vocal protest at Southern Response – over 100 people venting their anger. What was interesting was John Campbell’s interview with the chief executive, Peter Rose. I haven’t watched it a second time yet, so I’m not quoting verbatim, but I think I’ve got the gist of it. Campbell asked when all the claims will be settled, and Rose responded that it would be done by the end of 2016. Campbell then asked him whether he meant all of them, and Rose said 90% or more. Campbell then asked what would happen to the remaining 10%, and Rose suggested that they might be in court. Southern Response has about 6500 claims on it’s books – and they aren’t adding any more, as they were the agency set up by the Government to deal with the claims left behind by AMI. So potentially 650 of their customers could still not have their cases sorted by the end of 2016 – close to SIX FULL YEARS after the February quake.

Does anyone think that is at all acceptable? Southern Response have one job. Sure, it’s a complex issue – but a government agency that is aiming for a 10% failure rate when they are dealing with most people’s biggest asset is beyond a joke. The Minister responsible for this (HI GERRY) should be asking some pretty serious questions of Peter Rose and Southern Response. If this is how well the Government-backed insurer is treating it’s clients, I shudder to think what the private sector is getting away with.

UPDATED: here’s the Campbell Story

 

Yesterday, the Quake Outcasts won a landmark decision in the High Court, which found that the government had indeed screwed them over by paying 50% of what their land was valued at under a compulsory acquisition. Gerry Brownlee has decided to appeal, and the Prime Minister has come out with this astonishing statement:

“The Government would say actually we are being pretty generous on an insured piece of land, we are paying you out 50 per cent. One option is the Government says ‘thanks very much, it’s been a lot of fun. If you don’t want to take the offer, that’s where it’s at’.”

Thanks very much. It’s been a lot of fun. This is in response to a small group of people who have had to fight the Crown through the courts to get a fair amount of money for the land that the Government made a unilateral decision to remove from them. I understand that this will be one of Key’s flippant, throw-away lines, but to dismiss this group of people – who have taken your Minister to Court, and won – in this way shows just how appallingly out of touch Key and Brownlee have become about this city.