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Saturday, April 14, 2012

Keeping Gerry informed - bridging the information gap.

In today's Press Minster Brownlee is quoted as saying the rental housing crisis is: "not a problem that has been brought to my attention" (article is here).

It is bad for good government if Ministers are not kept fully informed of important events. Clearly Ministers rely upon those around them, and those people may also not be fully aware of what is going on.

Rather than being critical of this state of affairs it is preferable that we do our best to bridge the information gap.

To that end, it would seem a very good idea if helpful information were provided to the Minister's office by all who want to help out. There are a couple of places to start with.

The first is CERA, which would also help protect Roger Sutton from not being aware of important issues. At this stage no direct email address comes to mind so try the general one: info@cera.govt.nz The folk who deal with the e-mails are very helpful and track the information coming in.

Minister Brownlee has a number of private secretaries, and I have the contact details for one: Scott McHardy. Try sending helpful information via this e-mail address scott.mchardy@parliament.govt.nz
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Friday, April 13, 2012

Insurance companies - rebuilds becoming repairs

From various news reports over the last 24 hours a few insurance companies, and IAG in particular, seem to be taking a zealot's approach to doing right by themselves.

Introducing new concepts such as the earlier inspections being "only a preliminary assessment" (Press article here), IAG is creating a smoke screen. The words are aimed at portraying IAG in as good a light as possible to a much wider public, showing how they are operating within a government sanctioned framework, and creating a climate that is supportive of the company and dismissive of claimants.

Not stated in the media releases is what appears to be another new concept: that IAG can use the Department of Building and Housing's guidelines to opt out of their insurance contract with policy holders.

IAG are creating the impression that, if they can repair a house, that is all they have to do. A sort of - if you can live in then thats all you need - approach. However the main principle behind most policies has been a like-for-like basis, or something similar, that restores the property owner to the situation they were in before the earthquakes.

Ultimately the issue will come down whether the insurance company is meeting its policy obligations, not the content of the Department of Building and Housing's guidelines.

Interestingly IAG seems to be a company with form. When the Queensland Government held an inquiry into the conduct of insurance companies after the Queensland floods CGU, a part of the IAG, was singled out for special mention. The following is from an earlier blog about the Queensland floods inquiry (here):
As an aside, one of the worst performing insurance companies was CGU, part of IAG (Insurance Australia Group) - see Chapter 12, e.g. pages 287, 288, 308, 310. As well as property insurance CGU is a player in the provision of workers compensation in Australia. IAG NZ (a wholly owned subsidiary of IAG Australia) has links to New Zealand through State Insurance, NZI, Lantern Insurance, and the non-earthquake side of AMI. Names to watch for the future?
There have been a few blog entries on insurance companies in recent months so, click on the entry name if you want some background:

EQC- update to the FAQ on TC3 land

EQC have updated their FAQ on Green/Blue TC3 land (here).

A new introduction has been added, along with a diagram of how the land claims process for TC3 operates, and clarification of what land remediation does and doesn't involve.

An important piece of information is in the new section, Remediating your land, following immediately after the diagram.
"Buildings in TC3 that have badly damaged foundations will be repaired or rebuilt to Department of Building and Housing recommended standards, which are designed to ensure it will stand up better to future events. That work is covered under the building claim."
This establishes the DBH guidelines (as yet unpublished) as the mandatory baseline for the TC3 repairs undertaken by Fletcher/EQR. What remains to be seen is whether the DBH guidelines come close to restoring properties to their condition prior to the earthquakes.

There is an earlier post on the DBH guidelines as they affect TC1 and TC2 repairs here.
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Thursday, April 12, 2012

Holy Trinity's monster garage sale - this saturday

This saturday (14th), Holy Trinity Avonside will hold a Monster Garage/ Car Boot sale from 10am-1pm on the Holy Trinity site. Best access is off Stanmore Road.

Stalls available include:
  • Cakes
  • Books
  • Plants
  • Pottery
  • Toys
  • Trash & Treasure

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Earthquake seminars - Mental Health Education and Resource Centre (MHERC)

The Mental Health Education and Resource Centre and the University of Canterbury have joined together to offer free earthquake seminars.

The seminars will provide an opportunity to:
  • Learn strategies to manage uncertainties and challenges
  • Develop skills to enhance and support relationships with self, whanau and communities
  • Identify responses following the Canterbury earthquakes and appropriate referral pathways
The contact person is Christina Bond at MHERC (03) 365 5344 . Information about the seminars is on the Canterbury webhealth website here. The MHERC website here.
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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Seismic wallpaper - protecting old and vulnerable buildings.

Bayer MaterialScience, in collaboration with scientists from other agencies, have developed a material EQ-Top that can be applied to the walls of vulnerable buildings to give them additional strength.

The "wallpaper" is made from a glass fibre fabric combined with a special adhesive. In combination they increase the stability of masonry and reduce the risk of death or injury from structural failure. It is claimed the material is as easy to apply as wallpaper.

In the New Zealand context an earthquake-report.com article quotes a German researcher, Moritz Urban:
“In the New Zealand quake in early 2011, a great many walls crumbled and many houses collapsed completely as a result,” says KIT researcher Moritz Urban. The scientist estimates that the system could have prevented 60 to 70 percent of the damage. “Often it doesn't take much to prevent the collapse of a building,” Urban says.
There is more information about this material on earthquake-report.com here and news.discovery.com here. Bayer Research have information here (with a PDF of product details) and here.