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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Mayor Bob Parker and insurance - worse than no help at all?

In his personal statement to the city yesterday (here), in the context of Christchurch being without insurance cover from the 1st of July, the mayor ends with the following:
"I've been out and about at community meetings organised by the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority this week and insurance cover has been one of the most frequently raised issues. Homeowners are concerned that even though their homes are in the red zones, if insurance companies deem that their house can be repaired then the reimbursement they are being offered is the cost of those repairs. Individual property owners will be taking this up with their insurers, just as we as a Council are also try to get the best possible insurance outcome for our ratepayers."
What a fine thing, council and citizens fighting against problems with insurers. Not quite the same though.

The council, a large team with professional support, are seeking to arrange insurance for the future. So far there have been no problems with claims on existing policies. If some do arise the council has the resources and money, our money, to ensure strong advocacy in their own cause. Individual property owners, pretty much on their own, are dealing with problems arising from claims on exisiting policies in extremely difficult circumstances. They have no support, no one to advocate for them unless they can afford the cost of legal assistance. For many this process would take too long, and cost too much both financially and emotionally. To the delight of their insurance company they will just wilt, acquiesce and fade quietly away.

The issue of advocacy support in dealing with insurance companies arose months ago, and was quite topical in January and February (see blog items here and here). Basically the mayor felt there was no need to have an advocacy service to support homeowners in disputes with insurance companies, the companies had put sufficient processes in place. He was off to Wellington to impress on the Ombudsmen that an advocacy service was not needed.

Now that critically important issues are arising from insurance company responses to the "Red Zone" concept, property owners are facing the prospect of challenging insurance company policy interpretations in a very unequal contest. What a difference an advocacy service would make.

Did the mayor in effect sabotage the opportunity for advocacy? Could he have made a positive difference, had he supported and promoted advocacy? Has he helped put many people into a desperate, lonely, and soul destroying position?

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