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Saturday, January 22, 2011

EQC - Setting up Hubs and Progress on Scoping of Work

EQC, in their 21 January EQC Claims Info update have provided a progress report on the setting up of Hubs, and the state of each Hub. There is also a progress report on the scoping of repairs, repairs being carried out and the accreditation of contractors.
$10k–$100k repairs by PMO update
The Project Management Office, run by Fletcher Construction as agent for EQC, is setting up two hubs per month up to the end of April 2011. This will take the number of geographical hubs to 12 at that point.
The hubs are basically site offices for the repair work in that area. Those established so far are Halswell, Rolleston, Kaiapoi, Fendalton, and Rangiora. Spreydon/Heathcote and Hagley/Ferrymead are being established at present. These will be followed by Malvern/Ellesmere/Springs, Banks Peninsula, Burwood/Pegasus, and Shirley/Papanui.
The number of homes being repaired is now beginning to increase as the project becomes established. By the end of January about 350 homes will be at the point where the work required has been scoped and the resources needed have been identified. The physical repair work will have started in about 200 of those. The numbers will grow quickly from that point on.
To date, about 3,000 contractors have entered the accreditation process, which verifies their qualifications and experience to carry out the work. More than 600 have followed procedures to become accredited within the PMO project to date. In most cases there is a team of trades people working with the contractor making the application, so the total number of trades people involved in the earthquake recovery work will be in the thousands.
The Project Management Office is responsible for repairs valued in the range from approximately $10,000 to $100,000 plus GST.
The full update can be found here.
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EQC - Chimney damage programme

EQC, in their 21 January EQC Claims Info update have said they are accelerating the chimney replacement programme:
Chimney damage programme
We are currently accelerating chimney damage assessments with the goal of having as many as possible repaired or replaced before winter. EQC is doing the assessments for this with the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) and Fletcher Construction coordinating the installation of clean heating systems and associated repairs.
The chimney programme gives homeowners with significant or major chimney damage the option of replacing their open fire with a choice of an efficient, clean heating system such as a log burner, gas fire, wood pellet burner or heat pump.
EQC has received over 30,000 claims for chimney and fireplace damage and assessments have been prioritised for these claims. If you haven’t already, you should expect to see an EQC assessor in the next month or so.
Of the 30,000, we have assessed around 16,000 and around 4,000 of these had damage sufficient for them to be referred to EECA. We estimate that this total will grow to about 9,000.
EQC, Fletcher Construction and EECA are coordinating efforts to ensure the most in need get heating prior to winter – especially the elderly, those with young children or those that suffer from ailments that make it difficult in winter without heating. Those who have lost their primary heater due to earthquake damage will also be prioritised. These claims will be a key focus of our efforts over the next three to four months. If you feel that your claim needs to be dealt with as a priority case then you can email chimneyinfo@eeca.govt.nz with details of your situation and you will be contacted.
Please note that those further down the priority list will also be eligible for heating, and your home repairs will be undertaken in due course.
The whole of the information update can be found here.
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Fletchers - Repair process and the assessment sheet we signed.

On it's web page covering the repair process Fletchers describe the process from initial assessment to completion and sign-off in six steps (see here.)

The first step is described as:
1. EQC staff visit each property reported as having sustained earthquake damage. An initial assessment is carried out and agreed with the homeowner, a descriptive list of the damage is recorded and a claim file is established. After processing by EQC, the claim is issued to EQR.
The second sentence seems to state that at the initial assessment, there was agreement with the homeowner about the assessment. 

To the best of my knowledge, from the discussions we have had, none of us had the assessment explained and that the piece of paper we signed was only to the effect that we acknowledged that an assessment had been carried out.

Can anyone recall a different explanation as to why the assessment cover sheet was signed?
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Friday, January 21, 2011

Fletchers update

Fletchers have made three important additions to their EQC - Helping the recovery in Canterbury website at www.eqr.co.nz.

The first is a web page is called About EQR which explains:
  • About EQR (the EQC's Earthquake Recovery - EQR - project run by Fletchers)
  • What EQR will do for homeowners
  • The HUBs (community based offices set up to manage the rebuild process in different parts of Canterbury and Christchurch).
That page can be found here.

The second is Repair process and covers:
  • An outline of the process from the initial EQC visit until the completion of the repairs.
  • What work Fletchers will undertake to create and agree with claimants the scope of repairs and any associated aspects
  • Managing the repairs
  • The use of accredited contractors
An interesting point arises from this page, so a separate blog entry will be done to cover it.  The repairs page can be found here.

The last one is a Frequently Asked Questions page. As there is a lot of interesting information there will be a separate blog entry on it. The Fletchers FAQ page can be found here.
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Tower Insurance

Tower Insurance have an earthquake page that outlines what is covered by Tower policies, and what is covered by EQC. The information is now quite old as the page was last updated on the 8th of September. The page can be found here.

Their website is not as useful as it might be. There is no information regarding who will be doing Tower rebuilds and, as at today's date, at the bottom of the home page is a notice that the opportunity to lodge a claim with EQC has closed. The notice does seem a bit short on information, certainly lacks any appreciation of the large aftershocks of October, November and December, and has the potential to cause someone to mistakenly give up on lodging a claim.

Click on the image to enlarge it

Thursday, January 20, 2011

EQC - January 20 earthquakes will be treated as a new event for claims purposes.

EQC has announced that today's earthquakes will be treated as a new event for claim purposes.  Their news release is available here.

Gerry Brownlee - EQC statistics; and a new vocation in the footwear industry?

The Honourable Gerry Brownlee yesterday welcomed the news EQC was halfway through the assessment of claims. He issued a press release that, amongst other things, had this to say:
Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee has welcomed today's news the Earthquake Commission is now more than halfway through assessments of claims lodged after the Canterbury earthquake.
and this:
Today, EQC passed the halfway mark and has now assessed more than 84,500 properties. It says it is on track to have completed assessments for all of the claims it has received to date by 31 March 2011.
followed by this:
EQC says it has only received about 95 requests from claimants for a reassessment because they disagreed with their first assessment, which is a relatively small number given the scale of this event.
The press release can be found here.

No doubt they have reached a halfway point, but the halfway point of what?

Lets look at some numbers: as at the 14th of January (latest date for which published statistics are available) approximately half of all claims had not been started. Of those that had been started 26,000 had fieldwork still underway, 25,500 had had their fieldwork finished but were not complete, and about 31,000 were completed.

So, just under a week ago, only 31,000 claims had been completed. There is no clear breakdown of what is represented by this 31,000 number. As an EQC priority has been to deal with small claims first, it is likely these make up the bulk of that number. Anecdotally EQC have had a relatively low threshold of proof on breakages, especially those under $100. Chances are many would be happy with the alacrity with which their claims were approved. At the other extreme, those who are above the $100,00 threshold aren't necessarily happy, just repositioned into a private sector queue for processing.

Now lets look at Cowlishaw Street. Some have received their assessments, others haven't. Two households have complained in some form or other with the result that they were revisited and reassessed. So, one street alone makes up for over 2% of the reassessments. Even if there was only one reassessment per street for the remaining 93, does that mean there are a thousand or more streets of happily assessed people?

Of course the number '95' doesn't take into account those who have expressed dissatisfaction with the time taken to do assessments - you don't count if you haven't been assessed (around 80,000 households). You don't count if you have been visited but haven't received your assessment (maybe some 40,000+), nor do you count if your complaint is about the time taken to process claims for payment (who knows how many?).

Halfway point of what? It seems a load of cobblers to me, Gerry.
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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

CCC - Floor and Foundation Design Standards for earthquake damaged buildings

CCC today set up a new web page to provide information regarding floor and foundation design as it may apply to your property (i.e. already damaged land, or land that may experience liquifaction in the future). Much of the content is based on the Department of Building and Housing's publication Guidance on house repairs and reconstruction following the Canterbury earthquake which can be found here.  The CCC web page is here.

The web page is in a question and answer format covering the following questions:
  • What are these Floor and Foundation Design Standards?
  • Where can I find these generic building foundation and floor design standards?
  • How do I know whether I need a special engineered design for my house’s floor and/or foundation?
  • Why has the Government provided these generic foundation and floor designs?
  • What can happen to houses built on earth that has experienced liquefaction?
  • How do these new ‘off-the-shelf’ floor and foundation design plans differ from other plans?
  • Do the new design plans require additional design input from engineers?
  • What are the different floor and foundation design options?
  • Can I have my own registered engineer design my house foundations?
  • What is liquefaction?
  • Where can I find more information about these design plan options?
  • Does the Guidance on house repairs and reconstruction following the Canterbury earthquake document address repairs to above-ground structures?
  • .

AMI Insurance - claims information

AMI are using Arrow International to manage their repair and rebuild work.

On the AMI website is a page of earthquake related questions and answers, and a one sheet pamphlet describing in outline the AMI process for earthquake claims.

The questions and answers page (which is not as informative as that provided by AA Insurance mentioned in the previous post) is here  and the pamphlet can be found here.
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AA Insurance - information for claimants (good stuff for others too)

AA Insurance have appointed MWH Mainzeal to conduct their repairs and rebuilding programme.

AA have a very full and informative questions and answers page for their policy holders. Even those of us who do not have an AA policy are likely to find the material interesting, and there may be points worth raising with our own insurers.

The following is a list of some of the headings and questions covered by AA. A few of the answers are short on specifics but are a start. The page can be found here.

Start
    • There are two key options for you to consider:
      1.    repair/rebuild your existing home, or
      2.    request a cash settlement.
    • Can I rebuild somewhere else?
    • What if my land needs to be fixed first?
    • Can I make temporary repairs to my house?
    • Cash settlements
    • When do I have to decide what I want to do?  
    • Who will be repairing/rebuilding my home?
    • What will happen to the money I received from the EQC?
    • Will my house need to be demolished/rebuilt from scratch?
    • Can we use our own builder to conduct the repairs to our house?
    • What is the expected timeframe for repairs to our house?
    • When can the drive/wall/fence/path (non EQC damage) be repaired?
    • Will an engineer inspect my house?
    • Will I need building consents?
    • Can I alter or improve my house during the repairs or rebuild of it?
    • When repairs to my house are completed, will it be the same as before the earthquake?
    • What if I own land that is unsuitable for reinstatement?
    • How long is the land remediation going to take?
    • Will my house have to be demolished so my land can be fixed?
    • Who pays for temporary accommodation?
    • What do I do about temporary accommodation after 12 months if my home still isn't repaired or rebuilt?
    • The EQC have told me I'm in 'Zone A' but I have damage to my land, what do I do?
    • Do I still need to keep paying my premium?
End

You can go to the page from here.
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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Free Business Workshops

The Canterbury Employer's Chamber of Commerce (CECC) are offering a range of workshops to help Canterbury businesses after the earthquake and prepare them for future growth. Funding for the workshops is provided by New Zealand Trade and Enterprise.

Not sure how useful they will be, but you can check them out here. The first courses start in early February.
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Insurance companies - complaints and dispute resolution procedures

Insurance companies that are members of the Insurance Council of New Zealand (ICNZ) have agreed to a standard procedure for handling complaints. Most insurance companies are members of ICNZ including AA, AMI, AMP, State, Tower, Vero, and their subsidiary companies. A full list of member companies can be found here.

The ICNZ's advice to consumers on resolving disputes can be found here. The information below is extracted from the on-line brochure Fair Insurance Code which can be downloaded from here. Please keep in mind that both parties have rights and obligations, and what is described below represents only part of the overall picture. To understand what obligations are placed on consumers/claimants please read the whole brochure.

Complaint Procedures

If you make a complaint to us, we will:
    • let you know that we have received your complaint within 3 working days
    • make sure your complaint is fully investigated as soon as possible by someone not involved in the original decision
    • give you the name and contact details of the person handling your complaint
    • send you written advice about the progress or outcome of the complaint within 10 working days of receiving your complaint
    • tell you within 2 months if we are unable to resolve your complaint
    • when necessary, tell you about any other people who can help such as our dispute resolution provider approved under the Financial Service Providers (Registration and Dispute Resolution) Act 2008.
Disputes Resolution Scheme (DRS)

All insurance companies are required to have a DRS which is an independent service, free to you, that can help you settle a range of insurance disputes against insurance companies.
The DRS can help with complaints about policies and claims for personal and small business insurances to a stated maximum sum (unless the insurance company agrees to a higher amount). The DRS will help you settle your complaint by agreement, or the DRS will make the decision. The decision may be in your favour, or in the insurance company’s favour. The DRS's decision is binding on the insurance company, but not on you. If you are unhappy with the DRS decision, you can take your complaint to the Disputes Tribunal or to court.
The DRS will refer to the Fair Insurance Code to help them make their decision.
Your insurer will advise you which DRS they belong to.

State Insurance - rebuild information

State Insurance (part of IAG) have appointed Hawkins to manage their rebuild processes. All of their earthquake information can be accessed from here, including information on time frames and priorities. The following is extracted from their website. I am particularly intrigued by the "track progress online" benefit they intend to provide.

State and Hawkins - partnering together to rebuild Canterbury
We’ve partnered with Hawkins to project manage the rebuild and repair process for our Canterbury-based customers.
Building project managers will work with dedicated claims case managers to co-ordinate and manage the process.
A project office, managed by Hawkins, will be responsible for the entire process – from selecting contractors through to organising final inspections.
The partnership will streamline the claim and rebuild/repair process for all parties involved.

Key benefits
  • One stop shop – you’ll have a single point of contact – your claims case manager
  • Streamlined process – the Hawkins project manager will manage the construction process
  • Experience counts – Hawkins has a wealth of experience in construction project management; they are the experts
  • State and Hawkins – partnering together to rebuild Canterbury – we’re leveraging our extensive network to recruit credible and skilled tradespeople and ensure quality materials are used
  • Track progress online – you’ll be able to track the progress of your claim via the Hawkins project management website.
Resources
Hawkins has already tendered for contractors and in many cases, these will be companies and individuals that we already have an existing relationship with. Wherever possible, we’ll be working with local companies.

Monday, January 17, 2011

CCC - Infrastructure rebuild

The following is an extract from the mayor's earthquake update released on Friday. It covers, in full, what has been done, and what is intended to be done shortly. Like us, the council is awaiting the third Tonkin & Taylor geotechnical report to know what needs to be done in various suburbs. The full update can be found here.

An important development is the desire of the council to be in charge of the overall land remediation process. It is not clear whether this desire extends to wanting to be involved in land remediation on private property.

Begins
The Council is eagerly awaiting EQC’s land remediation plans and has put up its hand to co-ordinate the process within the Christchurch City Council area.
“Logically the Council is best placed to oversee the remediation,” Mr Parker said.
This would enable the Council to closely co-ordinate land remediation with rebuilding of its own infrastructure.
The Council has established an Infrastructure Rebuild Management Office, headed by Rod Cameron. Contractors have been appointed to manage the rebuilding of the Council infrastructure, and design work is already underway.
Temporary and permanent repairs have already been completed in some areas. These include:
  • 4 siphons that go under the Avon River have been repaired
  • repairs have been done to half of the roof of the Denton reservoir tank
  • to reservoir tanks at Cracroft have had repairs to roof structures
  • 4.7 km of water mains has been replaced - mainly in the Avonside/Dallington area
  • 1.8 km of sub mains has been replaced - mainly in the Avonside/Dallington area
Other work underway now includes:
  • harbour and marine structure repairs
  • boat ramp repairs
  • irrigation repairs (Bexley and Halswell)
  • structures repairs – fences and retaining walls
  • bank repairs – Roto Kohatu
  • rock fall repairs – at Castle Rock and Naval Point
  • track repairs – Spencer Park, the Groynes, Halswell Quarry, Coastal Cliff Reserve, Corsair Bay, Cracroft, Castle Rock
  • car parks/driveway repairs
Work about to start includes:
  • Heyders Road, Spencerville, replacement of sewer pipes
  • Halswell Junction Road, replacement of sewer pipes
Ends

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Advocacy help in dealing with EQC, insurance companies and councils - Part 3

In his earthquake update the mayor Bob Parker reiterated his earlier public comment that there was no need for an advocacy service to work on behalf of residents. The first paragraph in that part of the update states:
Homeowners with unresolved issues can take these up with the Ombudsman (for EQC issues) and with the Insurance and Savings Ombudsman (for private insurance company issues). There have also been calls for a separate, independent advocacy group, which have not been support by Bob Parker.
These comments are flawed as they do not actually address the need for, and purpose of, advocacy support. For some who read them, the content of this part of the update could be very misleading. The whole update can be found here.

1   BACKGROUND

Both the Ombudsmen (a Parliamentary agency whose territory includes EQC - the Ombudsmen are Officers of Parliament) and the Insurance and Savings Ombudsmen (a private agency covering most, but not all, banks and insurance companies - who fund the organisation) are bodies designed to investigate specific complaints that lie within their jurisdiction. Neither agency will investigate until the proper channels have been followed.

Ombudsmen and EQC - the process is relatively easy.
  1. you must first make a complaint to EQC using their complaints procedure (accessed via their website). That page, tucked away in an obscure part of the website, is here.
  2. if you are not satisfied with the outcome of the complaint procedure you can complain to the Ombudsmen. The Ombudsmen's complaints page is here.
  3. The whole process is governed by statute so that there is substantial protection for all parties.  
Note that the Ombudsmen can only make a recommendation and not make a direction.

Insurance and Savings Ombudsman (ISO) and insurance companies - the process is harder work.
  1. you must first make a complaint to your insurance company using their complaints procedure.
  2. the insurance company must provide a decision and, if that is not acceptable to you and all other correspondence/interaction is unsuccessful, give you a what is called a "letter of Deadlock" (meaning the end of the complaints procedure has been reached and there has been no resolution).
  3. The Letter of Deadlock then allows you to make a formal complaint to the ISO. If there are delays with your insurance company you still cannot make a complaint until the Letter of Deadlock is received. This may become an obstacle to progress if an insurance company is slow. The complaints page is here.
  4. The process is governed by the rules of the ISO and there is less opportunity for external oversight.
The ISO can make a decision that is binding upon the insurance company.

2    THE FLAWED REASONING

The Ombudsmen and the ISO are review bodies. They have staff who can look into a complaint and try to establish an independent view of the facts and appropriate decisions. They are both also very small agencies with few staff, barely enough for a standard workload, let alone the amount of work that might be generated from Canterbury. They are not support or advocacy agencies. The ISO does not have an office in Christchurch and so is quite remote from both the problem and those experiencing it.

Ideally most of the problems could be resolved without needing a complaint to either body. What is needed is an agency or group that can provide assistance to claimants as they try to work their way through whatever problem(s) they have. Someone to
  • talk the situation through with,
  • help get facts assembled,
  • assist with understanding what ever information is available,
  • assist with understanding the claimants rights and obligations,
  • set up and attend meetings with those not coping with the complexity of the processes
In this way problems could be resolved without risk of the claimant being forced into submission through weariness, stress, fear, or a lack of money for legal assistance.

None of this support is encompassed by the proposals in the update (see bottom of the page for the rest of the statement on advocacy). It is unlikely that setting up legal clinics will be of much help because, despite the best of intentions, they are likely to be talk sessions with little actual intervention by those running the clinics (think how much effort would be required to help the number of people with problems, especially if the problems are complex and/or the participants have run out of goodwill).

What is needed is something where experienced people assist those who are mired in a problem and can't get out without help. It needn't necessarily be costly if there was a high volunteer component support by a much smaller group of experienced advisors or mentors.

Let us see how this unfolds. In the meantime where ever you can raise an objection to those opposing advocacy support, please do so.


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In the balance of Bob Parker's comments on this issue he said:
Bob Parker is to meet with the Ombudsman soon and said he hoped that the insurance industry could address complaints and concerns without the need for a new entity.
Mr Parker is also in discussions with the Canterbury District Law Society with a view to establishing clinics around the city where people can get earthquake advice.