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Saturday, February 12, 2011

EQC - The first Geotech Interpretative reports have been released.

The geotech interpretative reports for Brooklands and Spencerville have been released. The Brooklands report is here and the Spencerville report here.

The release of these reports mean that in Zones A and B repair and rebuilding work can commence, subject to the assessment and paperwork requirements of EQR/Fletchers or the project managers for the insurance companies. However, as I understand it, there is no clarity yet as to who will do the land remediation work; neither EQR/Fletchers nor the insurance companies currently see that as part of their role.

EQC describe the reports in this way:
The factual and interpretative reports summarise the ground testing work which has been undertaken in the suburbs and provide the necessary technical information for engineers to progress the design of the perimeter treatment work as well as the design of foundations for houses which need to be rebuilt. The interpretative reports present details of the investigations and interpretations of the subsurface geological conditions of the specific suburb. They are being used by engineers to design the additional land remediation works where necessary and can be used, in conjunction with the Department of Building and Housing guidance document, by private insurers (and their engineers) to design the foundations for the houses which need to be repaired or rebuilt (to satisfy building consent requirements). The reports will also be used by the councils and their engineers to design the infrastructure repair works.
For claimants in Zone C, repair and rebuilding work will take place as part of a coordinated effort and for those in Zone A and B, repair and rebuilding work can get underway, once insurance assessments are completed and building consents have been granted where required.

EQC complaints procedure - Update on another example of it in use

Michelle and Jeremy have also had a response from EQC via the complaints system. Here is an extract from Michelle's e-mail received yesterday (Friday):
"You will be pleased to know that the complaints procedure is now working; we had an email from them on Wednesday apologising for their lack of contact and a phone call today.
We will now be reassessed and hopefully be given an appropriate amount to repair our property should we decide to opt out of Fletchers.
I believe we are the fifth house that has requested reassessment within our housing group."
EQC do seem to be getting there.
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Friday, February 11, 2011

Coffee at the Bicycle Thief

Paul and I had coffee at 1pm today with a communications person from MacDow Fletchers. The venue was the Bicycle Thief.

She had arranged for us to meet so we could express our views on the type of communication we felt would be appropriate for our community of streets. Nearly an hour was spent discussing various items from the overall plan, to the timing of works, and the important details essential to individual households.

The brochure arriving in letterboxes tomorrow will be a good pointer towards how MacDow Fletcher are going to let everyone know what is happening, and what is coming up.
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Christchurch Infrastructure Rebuild - starts today

I attended the start-up ceremony for the infrastructure rebuild this morning. Held at Burwood Park, it commenced with a formal welcome followed by speeches by Bob Parker (a polished performance) and Gerry Brownlee (a good speaker). Also present were Phil Gough, Brendon Burns, Nicky Wagner and Dame Margaret Bazley (ECan Commissioner)

It was basically an "in-house" function for the Council and the various contractors, plus associated organisations such as ECan. There was little hard information, however some tentative targets were announced for various initial activities. You will find this information in the "Rebuild News" newsletter (mentioned in the previous post) being delivered tomorrow.

The highlight was meeting Vern, a civil engineer with a house near Horseshoe Lake, who has spent quite a bit of time looking around and analysing physical aspects of the quake. He and his neighbours are in Zone C, so much of today's announcements will have little short or medium term relevance for them.

Mayor Bob Parker giving the opening speech



Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee


Avonside, Burwood, and Dallington drop in centre

Avonside, Burwood and Dallington - Infrastructure Rebuild news

MacDow Fletcher, a joint venture between McConnell Dowell and Fletcher Construction, have been contracted by the CCC to undertake reconstruction of the city's infrastructure in our area. From today they will be based at 75 New Brighton Road, upstairs at the Burwood Park Bowling Club.

MacDow Fletcher have published a newsletter Stronger Christchurch Rebuild News - Infrastructure Rebuild. It is not yet available on their website however copies will be distributed to letter boxes tomorrow. The website is here.

The first issue of the newsletter contains:
  • an introduction to MacDow Fletcher
  • contact information for the rebuild team (including the drop-in centre)
  • information on what has to be done in Avonside, Burwood and Dallington
  • what will be fixed first
  • the next steps in the process
  • safety information
The website also provides separate coverage for: Brooklands and Spencerville, Bexley and Southshore, Halswell, and "Other Areas".

Information for Kaiapoi and other areas in Waimakariri will be covered here, and Selwyn here.
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Thursday, February 10, 2011

EQC - access to geotech reports

EQC have created an additonal web page for the technical (factual) reports. It can be found here. 

These are the reports for:
  • Avondale
  • Avonside
  • Bexley & Aranui (completed)
  • Bishopdale, Casebrook & Redwood
  • Brooklands (completed)
  • Burwood
  • Dallington Lower
  • Dallington Upper
  • Fendalton & Merivale
  • Halswell
  • Kaiapoi North (completed)
  • Kaiapoi South (completed)
  • Kairaki & Pines Beach (completed)
  • New Brighton
  • Parklands
  • Richmond
  • Southshore
  • Spencerville (completed)
  • Tai Tapu (completed)
  • Wainoni

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

CCC - the web page "Building process and regulations" has been updated

The council have updated this page and it has a "last reviewed date" of 8 February. Unfortunately it is not stated what the changes are, or how significant they are.

The contents of the page are:
  • Repairs to earthquake prone, dangerous and insanitary buildings
  • Land Information Memorandum (LIM)
  • Building standards and regulations
  • Building Consents
  • Consents for demolition or repair
  • Flood protection
  • Land remediation
  • Heritage and character buildings
  • Aftershocks and claims
  • Council placards
  • Building Recovery
  • Toilet and drainage damage
  • When to call the Fire Service
  • EECA Chimney Replacement Scheme
The page is here.
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EQC complaints procedure - Update on using it

We received a call from EQC (Karl) this morning regarding the complaint made via their website.

Karl had looked into the background of our complaint (no scope of works information available) and discovered that an important part of the paperwork was missing (pretty much the same problem as experienced by someone else in the street). They are now going to do an intensive follow up and contact us again.

The good news is that their complaints system does seem to work, albeit slowly, and at different speeds (Michelle and Jeremy are still waiting to hear back about their complaint). As there are over 170,000 claims, if there were a 5% problem rate that would represent 8,500 potential cases for investigation and complaint. Considering how much paper work there is being generated every day I don't envy them in their work.

Now to wait for the result of the follow up process.
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Some street statistics

Part of the work being done on traffic and on-street parking (Dorian, Gail and Paul) has involved Gail mapping out, on an aerial photograph, the status of houses in our part of the world: Avonside Drive (Woodham to Retreat road), Chaddesden, Patten and Cowlishaw. Those who went to the picnic (oops - I meant barbecue) would have seen the photograph, and had a chance to add information about their property. If you didn't, let one of us know.

This information has been summarised and appears below. To help avoid individual properties being identified, only Cowlishaw street figures have been used.

At this stage dwellings (houses or flats) have been divided into one of four categories.

There are 68 65 dwellings in the street.
  • the situation of 28 is not known, 
  • 1 is below the $10,000 level,
  • 29 are in the $10,000 to $100,000 category, and 
  • 7 in the above $100,000 category.
Most of the numbers are conservative estimates based on our growing experience in these things, informal feed back from the EQC assessors during their inspection, and from the few EQC assessments sent to homeowners.  In the latter category one assessment has been disregarded as a major fault was missed during the assessment (a reassessment is expected, which will push it above $10,000).

As more information becomes available the statistics will be updated.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

CCC - Floor and Foundation Design Standards

Some houses experienced damage to the land around or under them through liquifaction, and the subsequent settling process.

Where land damage has affected the foundations of a house, specific requirements must be met as part of the repair or rebuild process. The Council have taken information from the Department of Building and Housing guide book (copy here) and turned it into a FAQ format. The council FAQ page is here.

Here is one question from the council's FAQ:
How do I know whether I need a special engineered design for my house’s floor and/or foundation?
If your building was damaged in an earthquake it is likely you will need to have a special design for the foundation and/or floor of the type outlined in the Department of Building and Housing’s document titled: ‘Guidance on house repairs and reconstruction following the Canterbury earthquake’.
You can also check whether your house is in an area that could experience liquefaction in future earthquakes by looking at the Earthquake Commission (EQC) ‘Tonkin and Taylor Stage Two Report’ on the EQC website. Just visit www.eqc.govt.nz, and then scroll down to the bottom of the home page screen. On the right hand side are the words ‘See Stage 2 Land Report’ highlighted in bold and underlined. Double click on this. You will then be taken directly to the full report. Check Appendices A, B or C to see what zone your property is in. If you do not have access to the website online you can request a copy of the report by phoning EQC on 04) 978 6400.
and another question:
Where can I find these generic building foundation and floor design standards?
They are outlined in a document produced by the Department of Building and Housing titled: ‘Guidance on house repairs and reconstruction following the Canterbury earthquake’. This document can be viewed on their website.
For those contemplating a house with a floor design other than one of the generic ones produced by the Department of Building and Housing, a full engineering report will be required (your cost), amongst other things.
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State Insurance: earthquake FAQ - Part 3 Complaints and advocacy

The final part of the State Insurance FAQ deals with how complaints can be dealt with, and advocacy support. Again, while this post is focused on the State FAQ, the comments are generic and likely to apply to all insurance companies.

Complaints

If you have a complaint about the way your claim (or you) are being handled by the insurer you can , once the standard process has been followed to the very (and likely bitter) end, raise it with what State call the Ombudsman.

This is not the "real" Parliamentary Ombudsmen, but the Insurance and Savings Ombudsman (ISO) established and funded by insurance companies. For more about the two, see the blog pages here and here.

At this point in the process you put your case, the ISO will assess it against the perspective of the insurance company, and the details of your insurance claim (which is a legal document and the basis of your insurance cover). Their recommendation will be made after consideration of all this. If you agree with it, fine, if not you can pursue the matter in the court's system. The recommendation is binding on your insurance company.

The practical issues for us are:
  • the office of the ISO  is in Wellington, and they have said they will not be opening an office in Christchurch
  • at no stage do you get a chance to put your case in person as you would in a court or tribunal
  • the process does not allow you to have someone more experienced than you pursue the things that are in dispute, and to query the position of the insurance company
On the surface, this approach seems to be similar to trial by remote control without benefit of a lawyer.

Advocacy

The State FAQ simply mentions that there is no independent advocacy service. It then comments further on the role of the ISO.

It may have been an error on the part of whoever wrote the State FAQ, but the expression "independent advocacy service" makes no sense. Advocates cannot be independent, their job is to represent one side in its dispute with the other. Perhaps insurance companies are against the introduction of an advocacy service because it won't be independent.

That fact that an advocacy service doesn't exist is beneficial to insurance companies. Without an advocate most claimants are in a weak position. We may not:
  • clearly understand what our policy means
  • know if our insurance company has made a mistake
  • know what information to ask for
  • feel confident asking for the information we need
  • be able to put our questions/thoughts/position in writing
  • feel comfortable and confident in questioning the insurance company
  • have the interpersonal skills to be able to meet with the insurance company and disagree with them face to face
  • know whether the insurance company's interpretation of our policy is correct, or if there are alternative interpretations that would be to our benefit
While no insurance company will accept the claim that they would disadvantage any client by the way they interpret or apply their policies, we live in an imperfect world and so do they. We are motivated by the need to have a home to live in, and to protect the asset it represents. They are motivated by cutting costs.

A final thought on why an advocacy service is essential. The way in which ACC has been treating injury claims has been likened to it "becoming like an insurance company". We have seen how some people have been disadvantaged in their dealings with ACC. Do we want that to happen with our earthquake damage claims?
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Monday, February 7, 2011

State Insurance: earthquake FAQ - Part 2 Design of a replacement house.

Some of us have discussed what might be possible if our houses were to be demolished. At this stage it looks, unofficially, as though there will be at least 6 houses in the demolish category.

Modern houses are easy to replace but house designs from decades ago are unlikely to be used. What can be done?

While not addressing this directly, State set out the boundaries for their clients. It is likely the boundaries will be similar with other insurance companies. The following is from the FAQ section headed Questions about your repair/rebuild.
"Your policy contract with us covers you to reinstate your home, like for like, with today’s building materials and obviously we would not replace materials that are prohibited today such as asbestos. Where there is no material impact in terms of cost and code compliance, we will work with you to accommodate changes you would like to make.
Please note, however, that any extra costs associated with these changes will be your responsibility e.g. design, architecture and engineering costs etc."
Anything out of the ordinary is going to cost more, and your insurer wants you to pay the additional cost. Out of the ordinary is likely to be anything that does not use building materials and designs that are commonly used now. Specially designed and/or environmentally friendly housing will, potentially, fall outside what an insurance company will be prepared to pay for.

State say if you have any questions to contact your claims case manager "who will be happy to assist you". As the amount that can be spent on your house will depend on your policy, which in turn will affect your hopes and plans, make them happy, give them a call. If you are unhappy with what you are told, agree to nothing and give one of us a call.

Copies of the latest State house policies (Comprehensive and Essentials) can be found here.
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Sunday, February 6, 2011

State Insurance: earthquake FAQ - Part 1 (a good read)

State Insurance, part of IAG, have recently placed an earthquake FAQ on their web site.  Someone at State has done a good job in laying out the situation from State's perspective. As always issues arise and these will be covered separately. If you are insured with State this is the document to read. The FAQ is here.

Even if you are not insured with State this is well worth reading, keeping in mind that other insurers will differ on specifics. It will certainly give you some questions to take to your insurer.

The main topic headings are:
  • How we are prioritising claims
    • 1. How are you prioritising who gets rebuilt first?
    • 2. I’m in Zone A (no land damage) and the government is saying repairs can begin now so why hasn’t mine started?
    • 3. Once the EQC has paid, when will you start my rebuild/repair?
  • Questions about the EQC
  • EQC Zone A
  • EQC Zone B
  • EQC Zone C
    • 1.  Can you assess my home now and at least tell me whether you are going to repair it or rebuild it?
    • 2.  I’m in Zone C and trying to get more information on when my land will be remediated and what the sequence will be – where can I get this?
  • Questions about your policy; excess and settlement options
    • 1. Why do I have to pay an excess for EQC and one to you?
    • 2. My home is a total loss - can I cancel my policy?
    • 3. My home is a total loss - why do I have to continue paying premiums on it?
    • 4. What are my settlement options?
  • Questions about your repair/rebuild
    • 1. My house is being rebuilt - do I have to have everything in the same place? (Lawrence's comment: this bit covers redesigning parts of the house)
    • 2. Can I move the position of my house on the site?
    • 3. Can I build a smaller home and get the difference in cash? Could I offset the difference in what it would have cost to build the same size against my mortgage?
    • 4. Can I use my own builder?
    • 5. Why can’t I demolish my house now?
    • 6. Can I build a prefab home on another piece of land I own until my land is remediated? Could I then have my prefab home relocated to another piece of land I own?
    • 7. Will I be able to keep things from my existing house that are being replaced, e.g. carpet, drapes, heritage windows etc?
  • Alternative accommodation allowance
    • 1. What happens when my alternative accommodation allowance runs out?
    • 2. Who pays for the removal costs in and out of my property when it comes time for me to have to move out of the house when it is being rebuilt?
    • 3. If I decide to rent a fully furnished property while my house is being rebuilt (and/or it is the only option I can find), who pays the costs to have my furniture stored?
  • Temporary repairs
    • 1. I need to get urgent repairs done to make my home habitable/secure/watertight – shall I go ahead with this? 
    • 2. I want to make some changes to be able to keep living in the house, rather than in temporary accommodation. For instance, could I install a heat pump so I can live there over winter?
  • Garden maintenance at an uninhabitable home
    • 1. I’m not living at my own property – what do I do about my gardens? Will you pay to have my lawns mowed?
    • 2. My policy has a landscaping allowance – can I use this to get the lawns mowed at my property? 
  • Council rates relief
  • Lodging a claim with EQC for an aftershock
  • Payment of EQC settlement to private insurer for repair/rebuild
    • 1. Why am I being asked to pay my EQC money to you now?
    • 2. What happens if I put my EQC money against my mortgage (or paid off my mortgage) and don’t want to take out another loan to pay it to you right now – can I pay you instalments or in full later?
  • EQC Temporary Housing Suburbs
  • This is a very stressful situation for me and my family – where can I go for help?
  • Is there an independent insurance Ombudsman or advocacy service I can talk to?
  The FAQ can be found here.
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