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Friday, May 20, 2011

Dissatisfaction with insurance companies

Waimakariri MP Clayton Cosgrove, along with the three other Christchurch Labour electorate MPs, participate in an on-line journal called Christchurch Earthquake bulletin. It is a daily account (Monday to Friday) of what each of them is doing and the issues being encountered.

Clayton represents an electorate with a substantial amount of earthquake damage, particularly in Kaiapoi. Waimakariri are further advanced than Christchurch in dealing with earthquake issues. Consequently whatever happens there in relation to assessments, the terms of insurance claims, repairs, rebuilds and land remediation can be seen as an indication of what might happen on a much larger scale in Christchurch.

In edition 45 of the Christchurch Earthquake bulletin (get a copy here) Clayton raises a number of crucial issues that will affect us. The whole of his text is reproduced below. There are lessons for us in what troubles him, and a collective approach where we support each other in dealing with the insurance companies may be the way to proceed. Let me know what you think.

(note: the original is one big block of text. I have broken it up into four paragraphs to make it less daunting, otherwise nothing has been changed)
Last night’s Kaiapoi Residents’ Association meeting focused again on dissatisfaction with insurance companies. Dissatisfaction is growing, not diminishing, and a common theme is the lack of information for residents, particularly around their claims. I told those attending (and was supported by a Waimakariri district councillor) that they should not sign off on their claims until they were entirely comfortable with them, but it is obvious pressure is being applied to some residents by some companies.
My advice is that residents get legal advice before signing, but some people can’t afford to do that. That’s why we asked Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee some time ago to provide a facilitation service, but nothing has happened. If people lose confidence in the claims process, they will become more reluctant to sign, and rebuilding will be slowed further. Lessons need to be learned from  Australia, where they have found out that providing legal facilitation actually speeds up the processing of claims.
The biggest obstacle to recovery will be if people can’t sign off their claims in a timely way. That’s what happening. A community law office has opened for one day every second week, but people at the meeting said it would be helpful if it could be staffed more regularly. A number of specific issues were raised about claims, notably around liquefaction and land remediation. What happens if a house can be repaired and the concrete pad under it is intact, but there is liquefaction underneath?
The Government has said that houses than can be repaired will be, but what happens in terms of equity if some houses are demolished, while others are rebuilt despite the presence of liquefaction? People also asked whether EQC, which has responsibility for remediating land, would agree to remediating it to its former ground level, because it some cases land has sunk drastically and there could be a real danger of flooding in the future. There are lots of questions out there, but people are finding the information flow is drying up again.
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