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Saturday, August 24, 2013

Blog update - going into recess

The Avonside Blog is going into recess. Why?

Friday, August 23, 2013

Avonside photography project – Official opening of Thx 4 the Memories

Yesterday was the official opening of the Avonside photography project Thx 4 the Memories.

I was invited to speak on behalf of Avonside, and the following are my notes which were pretty closely followed. What was said didn’t cover everything, but seemed right for the day. The things left unsaid are raised further down.

To Tim Veling, Bridgit Anderson and Glenn Busch (who is in France)

For your integrity, insight, perseverance, sacrifice, ability and especially your circumspection you have no equal. Thank you very much.

What you have achieved is a revealing, sensitive and intimate record of individual participants in a tragic event. Each record is an eyewitness account of the earthquakes and their aftermath. Collectively these accounts are something that will soon become tomorrow's history. An important part of the historical record.

Having said that, history is a perverse thing.

Understanding other peoples' history, in a different place or a different time, seems reasonably clear-cut. You can read about it, or watch a documentary. Important facts are laid out, key figures make their explanations, conclusions are easily reached.

When you live in the middle of an historical event nothing is clear.

We who live in Canterbury are experiencing the unfolding events quite differently to the way others measure or describe them. The important facts, key explanations and easy conclusions seem very distant from what we see and experience.

So, what is the truth of our earthquake aftermath?

Please look at the photographs and read the stories. For every Barbara, Judy or Shane, or any of the people who took part, there are hundreds and perhaps thousands of similar stories from those who have struggled in the Red Zones, and are struggling in the Green Zones and on the hills.

Please read the stories, look at the people and where they lived. Hopefully you will find for yourself some of the truth of the times we have shared since the first earthquake.

Thank you.

Of course there is much more to the truth of what has been experienced than that alluded to above. Many of the stories raise additional issues which I will try to summarise here.

The first distorter of truth was the Christchurch City Council with it's arrogant ineptitude, and inability to see past a  ‘business as usual” approach in a culture of non-disclosure. Insurers, their assessors, and the Insurance Council of New Zealand have espoused values and views we cannot understand from our perspective. Many of their truths are a dismissive contradiction of actual experiences.

The government, Minister Brownlee's office, have delayed and withheld, and continue to delay and withhold the release of information. At times there was the pretence we should be able to work it out for ourselves because it is "blindingly obvious". Yet, what we can clearly see, what we experience day after day, the things that at times harm or destroy us, are carefully and wilfully unnoticed by them. Being unnoticed, there is no need to correct problems, or support those who are struggling. Being unnoticed there is no need to talk with communities about what is needed for a successful recovery. Their truths too are a dismissive contradiction of our experiences.

Then there is EQC, the great Satan in our midst.

What can be understood of all this? What is happening? Time and again, in my struggle to understand, the words of the late Justice Peter Mahon come to mind: an orchestrated litany of lies.

So, what is the truth of our earthquake aftermath? Again, please look at the photographs and read the stories. That is where the truth is.

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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Fracking and earthquakes

From the website Science Daily (here).

How Shale Fracking Led to an Ohio Town's First 100 Earthquakes

Aug. 19, 2013 — Since records began in 1776, the people of Youngstown, Ohio had never experienced an earthquake. However, from January 2011, 109 tremors were recorded and new research in Geophysical Research-Solid Earth reveals how this may be the result of shale fracking.

In December 2010, Northstar 1, a well built to pump wastewater produced by fracking in the neighboring state of Pennsylvania, came online. In the year that followed seismometers in and around Youngstown recorded 109 earthquakes; the strongest being a magnitude 3.9 earthquake on December 31, 2011.

Another Red Zone rebuild reversal

A Red Zoner, having signed off with CERA just before the 31st of July, has now had the house that was a rebuild reclassified as a repair.

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Monday, August 19, 2013

Home insurance sum insured – Auckland Herald article

Diana Clement has written a very useful article on sum insured policies in the New Zealand Herald. The article (here), Make sure your house is valued properly, is a good read as are some of the comments.

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Sunday, August 18, 2013

Cardboard Cathedral

Some days ago Gail and I visited the Cardboard (Pro-) Cathedral. There are some photographs below.

The interior is plain, and simple. Gone is all the ornate interior design and links to the past. Gone too is the opportunity for object and ancestor worship of 19th and early 20th century architecture and citizens.  Standing in the middle of the new building it felt like having gone from a mausoleum to a place of the living. 

Friday, August 16, 2013

Retreat Road homeowner graffiti

A lot of Retreat Road is gone now and, as houses have been abandoned, parting gestures have been left. Some are fond farewells and others more specific and pointed. Here are two that have personal messages for insurers.

The first house (two images) was photographed on the 31st of March this year. The graffiti was quickly painted over. The second house (one image) was photographed yesterday. The censor has paid a visit and, presumably, the obliterator will be along soon.

Retreat_Road_State_gate_blog

Retreat_Road_State_fence_blog

Top_Retreat_Road_blog

 

I wonder if anyone is photographing this style of comment throughout greater Christchurch? It would make a good book.

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Thursday, August 15, 2013

Earthquake prone buildings – Cabinet Paper and Cabinet Minutes

The Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment have released the Cabinet Paper and associated Cabinet Minute discussing and agreeing to the provisions for legislation requiring Territorial Authorities to assess buildings and for the buildings to be strengthened or demolished. Links to the documents are on their website here (part way down the page).

They can be downloaded directly by clicking on the names below:

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Avonside photography project update

The University of Canterbury have posted more information about the project Thx 4 the Memories  here.

There are also more photographs on Tim Veling’s website here. Use the little grey slidey-thing just below the photographs to move through the collection.

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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

AA Insurance - more on the July progress update

In my post on the 10th of August (here) the observation was made that nearly half the AA Insurance rebuilds had “been cashed settled which, on the face of it, suggests a full replacement policy isn’t all it was advertised to be.”

AA Insurance have been in touch with additional information from their Corporate Affairs office. Here is their response in full:

I have recently read your post titled  “AA Insurance progress update” and would like to offer you some background information about how we are settling our Christchurch home claims. 

AA Insurance has a full replacement HomeCover Policy.  If our customer is a rebuild, regardless of whether our customers choose to stay in our rebuild programme and rebuild or their current site, or take a cash settlement to rebuild on another site, the amount they receive is based on the full replacement cost.  The same principal is applied if our customer’s home is a repair.

We will provide our customers with the information for both options and they are able to choose what’s best for their individual situation. This cost is agreed upon by the customer and they are recommended to seek legal advice. Of the 326 customers that have taken a cash settlement for their home claim, most of them have properties in the red zone.

This additional information certainly provides a much clearer and more accurate picture of what has happened. It also helps crystalize the problem faced by those who were rebuilds in the Red Zone.

A significant issue still remains. Every insurer is a retailer offering a packaged deal. When a property owner buys house insurance from an insurer, any insurer, it is a one stop purchase. Sign the contract and you are covered for a whole range of listed damages. When you pay the insurance premium, part of the money is for fire services and EQC cover.

From a buyer’s point of view the one policy payment covers everything, and it seems a reasonable expectation that everything is covered to the same extent i.e. land as well as buildings.  If the house burns down, not only have you made a contribution to the costs of the fire brigade, you also get a replacement house. If there is an earthquake (or flood, or storm), you have paid for EQC who fix your land (or give you replacement land) and the house is repaired or replaced by EQC and the insurer.

Herein lies the problem. Once again EQC and the government represent the point at which problems arise. Under “normal” circumstances EQC would have sorted the issues with your piece of land by repairing or replacing it – this is EQC’s obligation under the EQ Act and the point where legally valid expectations are created.

This didn’t happen. Instead the government made land offers via CERA , offers which were insufficient for claimants to be reinstated to a situation substantially the same as they were before the earthquakes happened.  Anyone could have compared rateable land values and market values to see there was a significant gap. As CERA is well aware, a number of those who were, and some still are, stuck in the Red Zones found there was an insurmountable gap between what the government was offering and the market value of the sections becoming available.

So, to return to my initial point: a full replacement policy isn’t all it is advertised to be. This is not the fault any insurance company, rather the product of an assumption that EQC and successive governments would behave in accordance with legislation and the end result would be “full replacement” – a house with land. The simple seamless transaction at the selling side of policies breaks down when disaster strikes.

As the role of EQC is assessed it will be important to either reinforce or completely dispel the expectation that there will be a seamless full replacement or reinstatement of policy holders to their situation before the event occurred.

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Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Southern Response - the use of lighter cladding for rebuilds

If you have/had a brick house that is to be rebuilt it appears the Southern Response may substitute a lighter material for the external cladding. The news release is here and reads:

Lighter weight claddings for TC3 land

Published 13 August 2013

If your original home was built of brick and is now being rebuilt on a surface structure with shallow foundations, it will need to be rebuilt with a lighter weight cladding than the original brick.

Lighter weight cladding costs more than brick and there is now an allowance for this in your Build to Budget sum.

The allowance will cover the difference in cost between brick and the current equivalent lightweight cladding system.  We expect that the number of rebuilds on TC3 land will result in an increase in the range and a possible lowering of the price of lighter weight cladding materials - so we will regularly monitor the available products and the amount of the allowance we will make available for this upgrade.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

AA Insurance – progress update

AA Insurance have added progress figures for July here.

It is interesting to note that so far AAI have completed only four rebuilds out of a total 674. Of the 674 nearly half (326) have been cash settled which, on the face of it, suggests a full replacement policy isn’t all it was advertised to be.

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Southern Response - progress report to July 2013

Southern Response have published their progress report to the end of July 2013. It is available here.

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Thursday, August 8, 2013

Earthquake-prone buildings

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) has published the media release for the policy decision on managing earthquake-prone buildings (here).

Part of the release states:

The new system is designed to strike a better balance between protecting people from harm in an earthquake and managing the costs of strengthening or removing earthquake prone buildings.

When the performance of the MBIE (DBH as it then was) on acceptable floor levels in damaged houses is taken into account (see blog entry here), there is room for concern that this piece of policy is potentially just as dubious. Once again the balance seems to have moved further in favour of protecting business interests by transferring the risks onto people. 

A primary part of the policy is to extend the amount of time available in which to strengthen a building identified as being earthquake-prone.  The policy proposes that Councils have five years from the date of the new legislation in which to identify all earthquake-prone buildings in their territory (2018 or 2019). There will then be a further fifteen years in which earthquake-prone buildings must be strengthened or demolished (2033 or 2034).

A negative aspect of this timeframe will be the situation of buildings that are not economic to strengthen being kept in use, with minimal maintenance, until the last possible moment to maximise the return on the owner’s investment. What sort of oversight will there be to ensure these buildings don’t deteriorate further?

The one redeeming feature is the intention for a publicly accessible register of earthquake-prone buildings to be set up by MBIE.

The Government intends introducing legislation into Parliament later this year. It will be worth scrutinising it to ensure that there will be full and prompt disclosure of all buildings considered to be earthquake prone, along with information about any exemptions or extensions applicable to each building.

The Minister’s media release is here and a full report on the consultation process here.

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Monday, August 5, 2013

Insurers - Changing a rebuild to a repair.

Today’s Press has an article by Lane Neave law firm partner Dr Duncan Webb on insurers changing a rebuild into a repair. This article is part of an on-going "agony uncle" series on how the law applies to certain situations.

The article is here, and worth reading. There is also an e-mail address at the bottom of the article if you have a question you would like to submit.

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Friday, August 2, 2013

Christchurch Police - Facebook page

Christchurch police have just set up a Facebook page to help Christchurch people be safe and feel safe.

The page, which is here, has been active for less than two days and is already very popular.  See the faces of those with whom the police would like to have a chat. Anyone you know?

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Southern Response – asbestos handling information

Southern Response have added the following information to their website (here), describing how properties with asbestos will be treated.

Before your repair work begins the main repair contractor will assess whether they need to test for the presence of asbestos in building materials in your home - based on the age, construction materials used and the nature and location of earthquake damage.  If asbestos testing is needed, the main contractor will arrange for inspection of the earthquake damaged areas; This will be done at our cost.

If asbestos is identified in earthquake damaged materials, a competent contractor will be engaged to remove that type of asbestos product that is earthquake damaged.

The main contractor is fully responsible for asbestos identification, testing, removal and disposal as per the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment rules and Health and Safety Act.

We will advise you if asbestos is identified in earthquake damaged areas of your home and can give you a copy of the test results if you request them. 

Further information on asbestos can be found on the Ministry of Health website: https://www.healthed.govt.nz/resource/all-about-asbestos

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

CERA - updated Cabinet Papers and Minutes

CERA yesterday updated its page of Cabinet Papers and Minutes (here). A quick check indicates that the changes fall into four categories.

The first is replacing unsigned documents with signed copies. The second is updated versions with some or all of the information that was withheld in the past. Third is where a larger paper has now been broken down into a separate document, and the fourth new material added to the page.

The papers concerned are (italics for signature only, bold for additional text, standard text where a paper has been split out from a previously available document, and  underlined because it looks like a new paper i.e. my record of this CERA page does not show the document to have been present before yesterday).

Changes to CERA’s existing web page headings

  • Cabinet Paper: Land Decisions - June 2011 (replaced on 30 July 2013)
  • Cabinet Paper: Kaiapoi Orange Zones - August 2011 (replaced on 30 July 2013)
  • CAB Min (11) 41/24 - Canterbury Earthquake Recovery: Decisions on Remaining Canterbury Orange Zones (replaced on 30 July 2013)
  • Memorandum for Cabinet - Decisions on Remaining Canterbury Orange Zones: Associated paper to Cabinet Minute (11) 41/24 (replaced on 30 July 2013)  NOTE: originally this Cabinet Memorandum was attached to the proceeding Minute (11) 41/24 as just one document.
  • CAB Min (11) 42/9 - Additional Item: Canterbury Earthquake: Orange Zones: Decisions by Ministers with Power to Act (replaced on 30 July 2013) - NOTE: originally this Cabinet Minute was attached to the proceeding Minute (11) 41/24 as just one document

New headings

Land Decisions - 31 August 2012

These Cabinet Business Committee Papers record decisions made to extend a purchase offer to owners of properties on the residential red zone flat land that were Leasehold, Vacant, Uninsured, and Commercial/Industrial properties.

  • Summary of Paper: CBC (12) 63 – Canterbury Earthquake: Red Zone Purchase Offers for Residential Leasehold, Vacant, Uninsured, and Commercial/Industrial Properties

  • Cabinet Business Committee Paper:  CBC (12) 63 – Red Zone Purchase Offers for Residential Leasehold, Vacant, Uninsured, and Commercial/Industrial Properties

 

Briefing Notes for Minister regarding Red Zone properties

These papers form the basis of the decision-making process towards the final offers that are outlined in the fact sheets above.

  • Briefing Note for Minister (3 April 2012) M/12/0314 – Initial thinking regarding red zone property owners not covered by the Crown offer to purchase residential insured properties
  • Briefing Note for Minister (23 May 2012) M/12/0387 – Red zone residential properties under construction and non-residential properties owned by not-for-profit organisations
  • Briefing Note for Minister (30 August 2012) M/12-13/084 – Revised Cabinet Paper: Red Zone Purchase Offers

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Saturday, July 27, 2013

THX 4 THE MEMORIES

In November 2011 there was a blog entry Photographing the loss of Avonside (here) about a project to record a number of post-earthquake personal experiences. The purpose was to record, over a period of years, the lives of some Avonside residents as they and the suburb experienced the after-effects of the earthquakes.

Tim-under-dark-cloth

The first phase of the project is more or less complete and those of you who took part may have noticed that part of it is to form a centre piece of next month’s Arts Festival.

Under the heading THX 4 THE MEMORIES, it will be an outdoor poster display of pictures and words and will run along Worcester Boulevard from the museum to the Square. There is information on the exhibition on the Arts Festival website here. Sadly there is no sneak preview of the images. It will be necessary to wait until the festival which starts on the 22nd of August.

For those who don’t know about this project, it was a long and arduous piece of work (still not finished) undertaken by Tim Veling, Bridgit Anderson and Glenn Busch from the Place in Time project. Tim has prepared a video back-grounding the project and you can see it on YouTube here. In the video Tim talks about how it came together. I would like to add to his words by thanking the people at CERA who lent a quiet hand behind the scenes to help with access to Red Zone properties.

Lawrence

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Sum insured - what amount should you insure your house for? What could go wrong?

As mentioned in previous posts, future house insurance policies will be based upon what YOU have assessed as being the cost of rebuilding. This isn’t just the cost of time and materials, it also includes costs relating to demolition and disposal of the rubble, surveys, local and regional council consents, legal fees, plus others that are complex (e.g. disposing of asbestos) or don’t come to  mind at the moment. You also need to know what limitations or conditions insurers put on certain aspects of your property (e.g. the technical category of your foundations, retaining walls, hazardous materials). It is not going to be easy to get this right. Get it wrong and you loose in a devastating way.

Not only is it going to be a difficult exercise there is also, as highlighted in a recent item on the Australian insurancenews.com website (here), the issue of avoiding unqualified valuers.  In that item NZ Property Institute CEO David Clark is quoted as saying:

“We are concerned that these so-called professionals have no training or qualifications in valuation or quantity surveying,” Property Institute CEO David Clark said.

“Worse, they may not carry professional indemnity insurance, giving you virtually no recourse in the event they let you down.”

Many thousands have experienced the incompetence of EQC’s assessors, so the warning is timely.

Adding more smoke than light to the situation, the Insurance Council of New Zealand (ICNZ) Insurance Manager John Lucas is reported as saying insurers offer online valuation calculators tailored to their policies.

“The council believes they should be fairly accurate, but often people want second opinions and we would be very concerned if homeowners were being duped by people who were not qualified,” he told insuranceNEWS.com.au.

“It can have devastating consequences if you are underinsured, and if you are overinsured you are throwing money away.”

This seems a reasonable enough comment to make, until you read the disclaimer that is associated with such on-line calculations (e.g. here):

The Cordell Online Calculator does not necessarily take into account every feature of your home, nor does it provide advice. So, if you haven’t been asked about a certain feature of your home by the calculator or you want advice, you should contact a builder, architect, valuer, quantity surveyor or other building expert to help estimate your Sum Insured.

How exactly do you reconcile “fairly accurate” with “does not necessarily take into account every feature…”? As an aside, are builders and architects the most suitable people for the job?

As far as I can tell on-line calculators don’t cater for TC foundation categories so, if this is correct, they are a waste of time for everyone in Canterbury. More importantly, if this is the case, why did ICNZ’s John Lucas say: “The council believes they (calculators) should be fairly accurate …”  Surely that is confusing at best and, more probably, quite misleading. 

It should be incumbent upon the ICNZ to prepare a list of what qualifications or accreditations will be accepted by its members as suitable for the purposes of their insurance policies. Failing that, each insurance company should produce a list of the categories of trades and professions they consider acceptable for the purpose of creating a sum insured figure.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Earthquake Assessment Service for Wellington

EQC have publicised a house assessment programme Quakecheck, that uses services offered by the New Zealand Master Builders Federation and Certified Builders Association and is available anywhere in the Wellington city area.

The purpose of the programme is to assess the risk an earthquake will pose to your house. The cost is $160 (see here for cost information and inspection details), and it is necessary to book an inspection.

Earthquake information for Wellingtonians.

EQC, Civil Defence and other agencies produce a range of information sources that are useful pre and post earthquake. New Zealand’s highly variable geography and geology means that the information is of a general nature.

For those who want to do a bit of research on earthquake preparedness for a city with some characteristics similar to Wellington, the San Francisco area offers a range of useful resources (click on the name to go to the website).

The US Geological Survey (USGS) published Putting Down Roots in Earthquake Country in 2005 as a handbook for those living in the San Francisco Bay Region.  While not intended for a New Zealand city, it does provide a wealth of information yet to be emulated here in New Zealand.  A copy can be downloaded here.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

For Wellington

It has been a hard day for many of you. Like other forms of strife, being in the centre of it creates a perspective few others can truly appreciate. Hopefully the night will be quiet and sleep comes quickly. Take a couple of days off and celebrate the fact that the worst didn’t happen.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

EQC - Additional information posted on the Home Repair Programme page

EQC have added more important material to the Home Repair Programme page here.

The headings for the additions are:

  • Find out more information about the Canterbury Home Repair Programme
  • Find out more about pre existing building issues
  • The issue of asbestos
  • Urgent repairs
  • Certificate of title notification

The last addition, notices on land titles, will have major insurance and re-sale ramifications for those who have a Section 74 notice placed on their Certificate of Title. The additions in full are below …

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Southern Response - foundation repair trials

From the Southern Response website (here):

Southern Response is partnering with Housing New Zealand to trial different methods of re-levelling earthquake damaged houses on TC2 and TC3 land. The trials are specifically for houses with concrete ring and concrete floor foundations. Housing New Zealand has produced two video clips - the first clip is an explanation of the project by structural and geotechnical engineers and the second clip is a demonstration of the jack and pack method of re-levelling. The website also includes a recorded presentation on foundation repairs from the CERA rebuild and recovery expo held in April 2013.

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AA Insurance - progress update

AA Insurance’s progress update to July is here.

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Monday, July 15, 2013

EQC, floor levels and (in)competency

Yesterday Radio New Zealand (here) ran an item where EQC was accused of:

“employing unqualified surveyors to measure how level floors are - using inadequate measuring methods - and thousands of houses are being wrongly assessed.”

To this EQC spokesman Bruce Emson, said:

“the commission's surveys are carried out by suitably qualified quantity surveyors and comply with all building and housing guidelines.”

Where does the truth lie? The two times our house was assessed, EQC used bog-standard builders to determine the state of the house. The first builder didn’t know how to use the laser level he had brought with him, and it took him nearly 30 minutes to get it operational. Once operating he measured only the easily accessed bits, despite offers to move furniture for him. This experience does not exist in isolation, so how can others know whether their property was accurately assessed by someone suitably qualified for the job?

The first thing is to deal with the semantics of the EQC response. What exactly is meant by “suitably qualified quantity surveyors”? To me it is an response designed to mislead the public by confusing the issue.

The criticism is that EQC has not had critical measurements made by professional surveyors – people trained in accredited institutions and professionally certified as competent to measure distances, heights, and slopes. In reply EQC have, for some time,  responded that they always use suitably qualified quantity surveyors. Herein lies the deception.

EQC claims to uses quantity surveyors. Quantity surveyors are not highly trained to make accurate survey measurements, their training is in costing repairs and rebuilding projects.  They are not suitable people to measure floor levels. Not only that, but EQC are also coy on what is meant by “suitably qualified”.  Does this mean that they are members of the New Zealand Institute of Quantity Surveyors?  Unlikely, as the Institute only has about 150 members in the whole of New Zealand (see their website here). So maybe “suitable qualified” means something less formal - they have undertaken short EQC in-house or contracted training and that is good enough for the job?

In the absence of clear evidence from EQC, it is valid and essential to act on the basis that until proven otherwise unsuitable people were involved in making assessments about your house. Your current and future housing wellbeing is quite likely in the hands of people with inadequate and unaccredited training and no professional qualifications.

How to find out? Maybe the OIA? I appreciate that EQC are gaming the OIA system, and the Office of the Ombudsman seems to have neither the motivation nor the courage to challenge them head-on, however the OIA does provide one means of determining whether your assessment was carried out by a suitably qualified person.

Using the OIA it would be reasonable to ask for a copy of the trade and/or professional qualifications held by the person who carried out the assessment(s) on your house. EQC will be tempted to use the privacy sections of the OIA to deny the request, however the whole purpose of trade and professional certification is to provide a public notice that the person awarded the certificate is suitably qualified for the work. Equally important, the whole process is also designed to warn that someone without the trade or professional certification is unfit or even prohibited from carrying out the work.

There is no absolute provision under either the OIA or Privacy Act that prevents the disclosure of who carried out an assessment, nor what their formal qualifications and trade or professional certification or accreditations are.

EQC and other agencies often seek to protect the privacy of natural persons, however there is no necessity for EQC to withhold the identity of the person who carried out an assessment. Unless someone works for the SIS it is not an offence to make known the name of an employee. As the assessors are carrying out their claimed trade, and in most cases as contractors, there are no compelling individual privacy issues. The assessor may wish to remain anonymous however that is not a compelling reason in itself. 

It is an issue of significant public interest to know who is involved in carrying out assessments, especially if in the view of the public there are doubts as to the quality of the work being carried out and/or the calibre of those making the assessments.

As a final point, trade and professional certification is a matter of public record (in the public domain) and so would fail the tests required to withhold the information. Of course EQC could claim not to have kept such records, which would be another indicator of their lack of integrity as an organisation.

A second option may be available for those who are happy to pour a bit more money down the gaping maw of their solicitor.  Where EQC maintain that a proper assessment was done, but refuse to release specific information, they could be asked to provide a Statutory Declaration to the effect that properly trained and professionally recognised personnel were used in all assessments of the property.  Failure to oblige would be a sure sign of  guilt.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Radio New Zealand news - EQC assessments of damaged houses wrong

Radio New Zealand has reported this morning that:

A registered surveyor in Christchurch says the Earthquake Commission is providing misleading assessments of quake-damaged houses.

More information on the news item, and EQC’s one line response,  is available on the Radio New Zealand website here.

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Friday, July 12, 2013

EQC update - error with some “Know where you stand” letters

EQC announced today (here) that there has been an error in about 4,000 “know where you stand” letters. From the EQC website (important bit has been highlighted):

Friday 12 July 2013: EQC has identified a technical error with about 4000 letters sent to customers currently in the Canterbury Home Repair Programme which means they were sent information not relevant to their claim.

Every affected customer was in the “CHRP repairs” customer group. While they received the correct claim information (eg: claim number), the letter or email may have referred to a situation which was not true for their claim.

For instance, some customers were told their repairs were on hold at the customer’s own request, when this was not true. EQC apologises for this error and will be sending further letters to customers in this group to give them the information they should have originally received.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Southern Response - progress report to June 2013

Southern Response have published their progress report to the end of June 2013. It is available here.

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Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Supporting workers in the rebuild.

Paul Watson has an opinion piece in today’s Press raising the importance  of rebuild workers getting “… decent jobs with good wages, a safe work environment and a voice in how the city and the rebuild progress.”

The article is here.

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Saturday, July 6, 2013

AA Insurance - Sum insured for Canterbury customers – cover for retaining walls (bad news for Wellington and Auckland too?)

AA have updated their new policy information to include two questions and answers relating to retaining walls (they are basically the same question put twice) here

While the answers have significant ramifications for most Cantabrians on the hills, or with multi-level sections, the effect of extending this limited level of cover throughout the country will be massive. Many hillside properties in the main centres will lose a significant amount of their appeal and also their market value.

The questions and answers are:

How can I ensure that I have enough cover for retaining walls?

Currently our policy will have a $10,000 limit for the construction of all retaining walls, which means this is the most we will pay for your retaining walls to be reinstated in a future claim, regardless of your total Sum Insured.

My home is in the Port Hills – how can I ensure that I have enough cover for retaining walls?

Currently our policy will have a $10,000 limit for the construction of all retaining walls, which means this is the most we will pay for your retaining walls to be reinstated in a future claim, regardless of your total Sum Insured.

Friday, July 5, 2013

EQC & DBH - deviousness with house floor levels?

Adrian Cowie, Director of Topografo Ltd., has written an article pointing out the inappropriate (incompetent and deceitful?) practices being used by EQC on the basis of the Department of Building and Housing’s less than professional amendment to building guidelines.

It is a very interesting article to read. If your house has a sloping floor reading the article is critical.  A link to the article is in the latest CanCERN newsletter, or the article itself can be found on the Rebuild Christchurch website here.

For those who wonder about Mr Cowie’s credentials (which are both impressive and substantial), they are listed at the bottom of the CanCERN version of the article here.

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Thursday, July 4, 2013

New EQC booklet - Settling land claims

EQC have released a new booklet that provides a summary of the land settlement claim process. There is information in the booklet on:

  • What land is covered?
  • The six steps in the settlement process.
  • Progress
  • The land settlement pack
  • Repairs
  • Timeframes
  • Complex claims

For the last point EQC consider complex claims to involve land with:

  • Increased vulnerability to liquefaction
  • Increased vulnerability to flooding
  • Shared land claims (for example, multiple dwellings on a single title)
  • Land with damage to structures such as retaining walls, bridges and culverts

A copy can be downloaded from here.

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Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Sum Insured update – AA Insurance’s guidelines for Canterbury homeowners (and the rest of the country)

AA Insurance have added a whole set of Q&As to their website for Cantabrians, to assist in coming to grips with the new method of insuring houses.  As AA Insurance seem to be the trendsetters for sum insured house policies, the information on their site will be good background material for those insured with other companies. Useful reading too for homeowners outside Canterbury, particularly those in earthquake or flood hazard areas.

The Q&A information applies to both those on the flat, and the hills. Significant questions arise for those on TC3 land (foundation costs), also on TC2 (foundation costs), and everyone in a damaged house. There are differing but equally significant questions regarding foundation costs and retaining walls for those on the hills (retaining wall liability to be capped at $10,000 irrespective of amount factored into the Sum Insured value).  There is no indication that the liability for retaining walls is to be inflation adjusted so the sum may become worthless within a few years.

Unfortunately the answers don’t provide much practical information, but carry the on-going theme that homeowners are responsible for getting it right, and keeping it right, and the insurer takes no responsibility if the sum insured figure is incorrect. 

The bottom line is every property owner wanting to get it anywhere close to right will need to pay to have a value determined for the foundations and rebuilding of their property, along with the costs of demolition and removal of the old property plus all planning, consents and permits.  A great unknown is whether insurers will accept this sum should the property be damaged or destroyed, or if they will continue the current policy of creating their own valuation in an attempt to raise doubt and reduce claims.

A very important omission is information about what happens if the sum insured value is determined to be inadequate by the insurer. Will the insurer pay up to that amount, or decree that the consequence of being under-insured is that only a discounted amount of the insured sum will be available (i.e. you will be financially penalised for being under-insured, as currently can happen)?

Also omitted is any information on how the policy, the sum insured, and the associated premium, coexist with EQC cover. 

For those outside Canterbury there is silence on the issue of insured sums incorporating foundation requirements. If you live somewhere such as the Hutt Valley, Blenheim, or Dunedin will TC3 level foundations have to be factored in? Land in parts of those places (and elsewhere) is just as vulnerable to earthquake damage as here in Canterbury. What restrictions will local authorities apply to rebuilds, and how can these be incorporated into sum insured totals? What about flood issues where rebuilds may require raised foundations? Who are affected, or are likely to become so? How can that be determined?

Preparing a homeowners assessment and checklist looks like a priority job for the housing people at the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE). In addition, they could usefully maintain a database of local authority requirements, monitoring where foundation construction and height changes have been made. CERA’s land zone maps would be the ideal template to ensure consistent levels of information are provided.

Also needed is a prompt and thorough independent review of insurance disputes processes,  from how they are first handled through to the operation and utility of the insurance Ombudsman. The Canterbury earthquakes have shown how inadequately the processes operate, despite many years of operation in a known and stable environment. Only insurers and politicians tout that the process is working, their attitude founded fundamentally upon a desire to protect the wealth of insurers and re-insurers, rather than issues of due process or natural justice. With a totally new and significantly more complex range of policies coming into effect the current processes just will not do.

The Q&A can be found on the AA Insurance website here (bottom half of the page). The page also includes information for the rest of the country. The Canterbury questions and answers are listed below.

Click the link to continue …

Monday, July 1, 2013

EQC - Timeframe for settlement of under $15,000 claims

The following is from the EQC website (here).

July 2013

EQC expects to settle all single-dwelling under $15,000 claims (standard) that don't have structural damage by the end of October 2013.

This will include your claim if:

  • your overall home repairs will cost less than $15,000 (+ GST)
  • you don't have any structural damage integral to your building
  • you don’t have any urgent repairs outstanding
  • your claim or claims refer to a single dwelling rather than a body corporate managed property or multi-dwelling.

There are approximately 20,000 properties still to be settled. So far, EQC has settled approximately 20,000 dwellings with under $15,000 claims as at the end of June 2013.

EQC update - Canterbury FAQs

EQC have updated their Canterbury FAQs here.

The change involves the addition of a new section on cash settlements where claims are under $15,000.  You can find them toward the bottom of the page, or click on the link just below to continue reading them on the blog.

Monday, June 24, 2013

CERA update - Community Issues and Questions

CERA have updated their Community Issues and Questions page by adding three new questions (at the bottom of the page here). One of the questions is relevant to those who are still in the Red Zone. At this stage there are no answers available.

The problems/issues/questions are:

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Insurance Council and building consents – a case of the pot calling the kettle black?

Earlier this evening (Sunday) a media release was sent out from the Insurance Council (ICNZ) welcoming the progress being made by CCC on issuing building consents. At the same time ICNZ took it upon itself to warn CCC that “… the council “can’t take its foot off-the-peddle””.

Consider the on-going track record of most insurers - continuous failure to communicate, act, or negotiate with any sense of urgency, competence or diligence over the last two and a bit years. How can ICNZ consider itself to be in any position to criticise or advise CCC? Had insurers performed to a uniformly satisfactory standard would the bottleneck now being experienced have been so great? Is this being used as another opportunity for insurers to blame someone else for problems they themselves have created?

It would be ideal if consents could be granted more quickly, but at what cost? The process is there for a purpose – health, safety, quality and appropriateness. Think in terms of leaky buildings, shonky land, quick and dirty construction. Think also of the past mistakes made in consenting land and old buildings. These are the reasons we must have an effective consenting process.  Sure,  Minister Brownlee wants consenting done quickly to demonstrate that progress is being made. Insurers and their builders want to get the job done, reduce costs, remove the pressure they are under. These are not good things if done at the expense of the integrity of the checks and balances, and the quality of what is produced. Already there a strong murmurings of shoddy work being carried out that may equal the problems caused by the construction of leaky buildings. That’s not a road New Zealand can afford to travel twice.

The full ICNZ media release:

Friday, June 21, 2013

Know where you stand - a new EQC webpage

Know where you stand is a new webpage aimed at providing very basic statistical information on the progress EQC has made, and what is happening in EQC’s programme of contacting all claimants.

The information is not particularly breath stopping however the page may become a means of finding out what is happening, or scheduled to happen. For instance the page advises that this week EQC is contacting those who have elected to opt-out. The page is here.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

New winter resilience programme

Minister Brownlee has announced the coming together of companies and agencies to help those whose damaged homes don’t fare well this winter.

In a first step, major construction companies have volunteered staff to respond to any emergency works created by this week’s expected snowstorm, working alongside Civil Defence and the Christchurch City Council.

Mr Brownlee says the impact of a third winter in an earthquake-damaged home cannot be underestimated, especially where warmth and sanitation issues are concerned.

“While almost 50,000 urgent repairs have been carried out to ensure homes are weathertight, and 19,000 winter heat devices have been installed, we accept that cold weather could cause problems.

“I want to be sure we get the message across to everyone that there is a lot of help available in a variety of forms.”

As per normal procedure in the case of an emergency, Civil Defence through the Christchurch City Council will lead the response, while other agencies will form an additional layer of support.

The full announcement (here) is reproduced below.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Evaluating the government’s temporary housing

The Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment (MBIE) has released a report Evaluation of the Canterbury Temporary Villages on the temporary housing provided at Kaiapoi, Linwood Park and Rawhiti Domain. The report can be downloaded from here.

The following is an extract from the executive summary:

To date, the temporary villages have provided a relevant and effective service to displaced Canterbury residents with property damage resulting from the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes. Village residents interviewed have appreciated the villages for what they are: temporary accommodation while their homes are being repaired or rebuilt. Almost all tenants regard the accommodation as ‘more than adequate’, and the rent as ‘fair’. Property management issues are quickly and efficiently dealt with; there is flexibility around end dates that gives tenants peace of mind if their repairs are delayed. The non-property management services have been useful for tenants and providers alike.

The Report is 29 pages long and contains the following:

Monday, June 17, 2013

Progress update - AA Insurance

AA Insurance have published their progress figures as of June here.

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Thursday, June 13, 2013

EQC - updated information on land and building claims

EQC have published updated information on claims here. The information is based upon newspaper advertisements being run by EQC, the topics are listed below. For each topic a copy of the published material published can be downloaded.

Land claims (June - July 2013)

  • If you've got a land claim, here's some facts about your cover.
  • If you've got a land claim, settlements are underway.
  • If you've got a land claim, we've got some timings.
  • If you've got a land claim, here's how we'll assess it.
  • EQC Canterbury land claim settlements are underway.
  • EQC's Canterbury land claims process.
  • How Canterbury Land Claim Settlements are calculated by EQC.

Vulnerable people (June - July 2013)

  • Help us reach those most in need.

Building claims (cross leases) (June 2013)

  • If your building claim is delayed, your building could be the reason.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

CERA - more information on the Residential Advisory Service

CERA have produced a video explaining some of the workings of the RAS here, on a website called Vimeo (sort of like Youtube but for grownups). Click on the photograph of Ivan to make it work.

The video is about 5 and a half minutes long and quite informative – good viewing.

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Friday, June 7, 2013

Southern Response - progress report to May 2013

Southern Response have published their progress report to the end of May 2013. It is available here.

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Thursday, June 6, 2013

Red Zone extension form changed.

CERA have updated the application form to be used for those applying for a Red Zone settlement extension.

The new form was added to the CERA website today, and can be accessed from the bottom of the webpage here, or downloaded here.

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Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Briefings to builders from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), with Bunnings, Carters, ITM, Mitre 10 and Placemakers, are running a series of briefings to give builders working in Canterbury important info on repairing and rebuilding earthquake-damaged homes.

The briefings will cover roles and responsibilities, and the repair of foundations, linings and cladding.

The free briefings will run for two hours, either 7.30 - 9.30am or 5.30 - 7.30pm in the Jack Mann Auditorium, College of Education, Solway Ave, Ilam, Christchurch

The full media release is here.

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For Red Zoners who are seeking an extension

CanCERN has produced some ideas they think may help Red Zone residents who wish to apply for an extension to stay in the residential red zone.  

To see this information please click here or go to the following link on Google Docs.

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1HugAyj_45SqJvU3HDNfs9AfXklHPIRvLaUQhZ8EcgBQ/edit?usp=sharing

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Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Waimakariri Red Zone drop-in session tomorrow (Wednesday)

The Waimakariri District Council (WDC) and CERA are hosting a Red Zone drop-in session on Wednesday 5 June between 2.30pm and 7pm at the Kaiapoi Service Centre, 24 Sewell Street.

The following is the text of a letter dated the 30th of May from the WDC to Red Zone residents …

Friday, May 31, 2013

EQC - Update to the Canterbury FAQs page for multi-unit buildings

EQC have updated their Canterbury FAQs page here. The information that has been added is:

Multi-Unit Buildings

  • Why do I have to consult with or agree with my neighbour over the repair strategy?
  • Can I see my scope of works?
  • My unit has only minor cosmetic damage, why can't it be repaired now? Or my neighbour has been repaired, is with Fletcher EQR, or has been cash settled. Why haven't I?
  • Can we learn from how they handle cross-lease titles in other countries?
  • Does being part of a multi-unit building affect my land claim?

Thursday, May 30, 2013

AA Insurance progress update

AA Insurance have posted their progress figures for the period to 20 May here.

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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

CERA – Community Issues and Questions update

CERA have updated their Community Issues and Questions web page (here).

The following questions and their associated answers have been added:

Land with increased risk to flooding.

  • What is the timeline for the business decision to be made in regards to flood risk land? Is there a chance this land will be deemed unsuitable or too expensive to build on?
  • Why can't the homes be assessed prior to the decision so when the decision is made homeowners know whether they are a Fletchers managed repair or with their insurance company? Then, if they are with insurance they will be further into the process than if no assessment had been done.

How do we get a report once the Land remediation team has assessed our land?

At the moment most communities have to go through the CCC to get access every time they want to use the community facility - hall. Can the CCC negotiate for there to be local key holders who are most likely to use the facility on a very regular basis?

Does land in the FMA which has dropped significantly (200 mm - 300 mm) require being built up before repairs are started to bring properties back to original height thus leaving them less vulnerable to flooding? If so who is responsible for this? If not, why not? This can prejudice future insurance cover and therefore mortgages.

There is a marked increase in rodents (mice, rats, possums) due to abandoned houses (both red and green zones). Whose responsibility is it to control the infestations beyond the homeowner dealing with issue on their own property? Who should enquiries be directed to?

Asbestos

  • What are the guidelines for dealing with repair issues that involve asbestos?
  • Are EQC and the insurer required to test for the presence of asbestos at their expense if they are concerned the damaged structure (ceiling, roof, wall, etc.) contains asbestos?
  • If a homeowner tests for the presence of asbestos at their own expense and asbestos is found (on the damage in question), does this mean the repair methodology can be challenged?
  • Are they allowed to ignore damage that has asbestos involvement because of safety or any other reason?
  • Can they 'patch' damage with asbestos presence or does the entire asbestos structure (ceiling, roof, wall, etc.) have to be replaced with non-asbestos equivalent?

How would a customer know whether their policy deducts the cost of temporary repairs from either the final settlement or accommodation allowance?

Canterbury recovery insurance report

The Insurance Council of New Zealand have released the latest statistics on apportionment decisions, assessments, money spent and claims being processed. Click the link for the report.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Red Zone deadline update

CERA have issued a media release (here) announcing the grounds on which a deadline extension may be granted for those  stuck in the Red Zone on flat land. In part the media release states:

“We have already been in contact with the majority of these people for a long time, so we have been aware of their concerns. However the workshops just gave us a chance to get more information about their situations, as no two cases are the same.”

Mr Sutton says cases for an extension will only be considered on strict criteria. That includes whether obstacles a property owner may have in settling are beyond their control, their particular health or age-related vulnerabilities, and the impact an extension may have on activities such as property clearances and infrastructure services.

Letters are being sent to affected Red Zone property owners to explain the case by case extensions, and information can be accessed on the CERA website (here).

Requests for extensions need to sent to CERA as follows:

  • Settlement date  31 July 2013 then the request must be submitted by 5pm 14 June 2013
  • Settlement date  31 August 2013 then the request must be submitted by 5pm 19 July 2013

A copy of the request form is here.

The important information from the CERA website is below :

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Supporting CanCERN’s letter to Minister Brownlee

A number of community groups have sent e-mails to Minister Brownlee supporting CanCERN’s letter. Click the link to see our e-mail sent yesterday to Minister Brownlee. A copy of the e-mail was also sent to MP Nicky Wagner, who seems to have disappeared from the radar over these issues which affect much of her electorate.

Dear Minister Brownlee

Yesterday CanCERN wrote to Minister Brownlee in response to his appearance on Campbell Live earlier this week. 

 

Hon. Gerry Brownlee
Minister of Canterbury Earthquake Recovery
22 May 2013

Dear Minister Brownlee

Firstly we would like to thank you for conducting the Campbell Live interview on Monday 20 May regarding the resident’s plight with the Earthquake Commission. Acknowledging their voice is the first step towards resolving issues.

You mentioned in your interview that you had heard the issues but not the solutions. We found this statement disappointing because CanCERN has on numerous occasions tried to engage you in solution focused discussions regarding EQC. We would once again invite that opportunity and have reiterated the areas which have consistently been of most concern and the solutions that have come directly from the residents most impacted by EQC’s delivery of service.

Prioritising the vulnerable the issue

Many elderly, sick and vulnerable people are still waiting to be identified and prioritised. EQC has recently developed a process to prioritise the vulnerable but it relies largely on community groups discovering and referring those they find in the community. EQC does action these referrals but it leaves too many gaps the most vulnerable are the hardest to find and we are slowly uncovering 95 year olds and 101 year olds who have waited for over two years for EQC to make contact. While utilising the knowledge of the community can be seen as a positive move, people will be missed and EQCs preoccupation with capacity has overruled the priority to find every possible vulnerable person. EQC's needs have been put over and above the needs of the vulnerable. This is unacceptable and shows a lack of commitment to actually wanting to identify the most vulnerable.

The solution

EQC management were given advice via the EQC Customer Advocacy Group to promote the programme widely via the media and to use the MSD database which they have access to to proactively and directly contact all people to offer them information about the programme. EQC refused to take this advice saying capacity was an issue and they were cautious of opening it up and being taken advantage of.

Case Management - the issue (click the link to continue)

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

EQC drilling update

EQC have updated information on their drilling programme here.

The information covers:

  • Major drilling program completed
  • Shallow geotechnical investigations (useful for those who don’t need a major geotechnical investigation).
  • Accessing a copy of the shallow geotechnical investigation findings

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Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Red Zone meetings – urgent message

The following is from Leanne Curtis of CanCERN. If you are a Red Zoner and haven’t attended one of CERA’s Red Zone meetings please read.

This is a very quick summary of the Red Zone Workshops which were held yesterday, Monday 20 May. There are two further planned workshops TOMORROW, WEDNESDAY 22 MAY at 1pm and 6.30pm.

If you have not yet registered and would like to please ring:

0800 RING CERA (0800 7464 2372). Registration is essential to cater for seating.

(If you are unable to attend one of the workshops and you are concerned that you may not be able to meet your settlement date, you can call 0800 RING CERA (0800 7464 2372) to discuss your concerns.)

The feedback from attendees has been positive and the phrase 'useful' was the most common. The workshop is mostly focused on the small group discussion/workshopping although there is an overview of the offer, deadlines and support services.

The main questions relate to why exactly you have had issues with settling and vacating and what possible solutions need to be looked at.

Case Management is discussed and the workshop discussion is informing how the case management will work.

In essense, all red zoners now have an opportunity to write to Roger Sutton to request an extension on their deadline based on individual circumstances. Not every situation will be granted an extension but the discussion is painting a very clear picture of the obvious and far more invisible impacts and issues remaining red zoners are facing.

I strongly encourage you to attend the workshops planned for tomorrow. People have felt and been heard, there are ample opportunities to talk to the people you need to talk to and this has been most appreciated by attendees. If speaking in a group is not your thing there are opportunities to talk alone or to register your story on a form so that CERA can contact you to follow up. You can register for the Residential Advisory Service, receive Red Cross Grant information, talk to Community Law, et Financial Advice, connect with an Earthquake Support Coordinator (and discuss case management in more depth).

Please feel free to call me on the numbers below if you would like any further information before registering. I'm only too happy to talk you through it.

Please note: a Port Hills specific meeting will be planned and we are discussing with the Waimakariri District Council what the needs in the area are. Waimakariri residents are also welcome to register for tomorrows workshop though.

Regards

Leanne Curtis

CanCERN Relationships Manager

DDI       03 3100325   CELL    027 6555665

Friday, May 17, 2013

CERA Red Zone meetings on Monday and Wednesday

On Wednesday CERA sent invitations to those still in the Red Zone to attend a Red Zone workshop. There are four workshops in all:

  • Monday 20 May at 1pm or 6.30pm
  • Wednesday 22 May at 1pm or 6.30pm.

The letters are going to those who have not yet settled with CERA, their  insurer, or have a settlement date between now and July.

The workshops will provide the information you need about the deadline and how case management will work.  Please note you must register in advance to be able to attend one of the four workshops.

The following is the text of the letter (click the link to see the rest)

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Criteria for CERA’s Residential Advisory Service

On the RAS site there is a description of the three steps used by the Service (here).

Step 1 includes the words “a staff member will take you through a short assessment to see whether your circumstances meet the criteria …”.  In case it is not clear what this means, the criteria is listed further up their web page and I have reproduced it below.

The wording is a bit equivocal (may be available if …) however there oughtn’t be any surprises (let me know if there are).

This service may be available to you if you are an earthquake-affected residential property owner and you:

  • believe you are in disagreement with another party over your repair or rebuild process, or
  • are not confident about or do not understand the complex matters associated with your rebuild or repair process.

However, you cannot use the service if you:

  • have filed legal proceedings against your insurer (if your issue is insurance related), or
  • are participating in EQC mediation (if your issue is EQC related), or
  • are trying to deal with your situation through the Insurance and Savings Ombudsman process or any other dispute resolution service.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

CERA’s Residential Advisory Service

The Residential Advisory Service (RAS) starts business from 8.00 tomorrow morning. The RAS website is here.

The basics are:

  • Phone number 0800 777 299

  • Call centre hours  8am to 5pm

  • When will meetings with independent advisors begin?  Cases will be triaged by the call centre and placed with advisors based on the specific nature of issues, with the first advisor/property owner meetings beginning on Monday 20 May.

  • Where will meetings take place?  The Residential Advisory Service has secured space in 15 locations around greater Christchurch so meetings can occur in convenient places for property owners.

  • Who are the independent advisors?  They’re professional people working in the field in greater Christchurch across the areas of engineering, building, geo-technical expertise, real estate and insurance.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Over-cap and got creeping mould or weather-tightness issues?

Australian insurance news website InsuranceNEWS reports the CEO of the Insurance Council of New Zealand as encouraging all owners of over-cap earthquake damaged homes to contact their insurers if there are problems with mould. This applies only to homes that are over-cap, as EQC and Fletcher/EQR are responsible for under-cap properties.

Some extracts from the article (full article here).

Canterbury homeowners should contact their insurers if they are affected by creeping mould from liquefied soil caused by the earthquakes, according to the Insurance Council of New Zealand (ICNZ).

“While the removal of liquefied soil is a land issue, and therefore the responsibility of the Earthquake Commission, insurers will look at removing soil for ‘over-cap’ homes and settle with [the commission] afterwards,” ICNZ CEO Tim Grafton said.

Temporary weatherproofing repairs can be carried out without affecting the full repair waiting list.

“I’m aware some people are worried about seeking help because they think if they get support like this they will drop down the rebuild queue,” Mr Grafton said.

“That is not true. The key vulnerability factors that prioritise rebuilds and repairs remain in place.”

ICNZ have an item on their website (here) providing more information on support for those who are in damaged homes and considered vulnerable.  If you think are in the vulnerable category (e.g. age, children in the household, health issues, terminal illness, dependency on a carer, financial circumstances), or you have weather-tightness issues it is worth checking it out.

The item reads:

Friday, May 10, 2013

Southern Response - update on Build options especially cross lease properties

Southern Response have updated their webpage on options available to those with rebuilds. Part of the new information relates to people with cross leased properties.

The update is here and the cross lease information below (original here).

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Southern Response - progress report to April 2013

A few days ago Southern Response published their progress report to the end of April 2013. It is available here.

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Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Comments on the EQC Mediation service - Part 2

The fourth document in the process is the Settlement Agreement. Before we get to it some context is needed, as there are important factors to be taken into account. The first is, when reading this, please remember it is an area in which you need to get professional advice before making a decision. 

Motives

The correct view to take of EQC's Mediation Service is a dismissive one. The Service is aimed at creating the impression EQC is being proactive and helpful, part of the on-going public relations campaign of boosting EQC's profile while marginalising claimants. It is interesting that, in promoting the Service, neither EQC nor AMINZ suggest that mediation could be anything other than a walk in the park. Yet, at it’s core, the Service is potentially a mechanism for getting rid of difficult cases and unsuspecting claimants down a dark alleyway.

This may seem harsh, yet there is no cause to think otherwise. The experience of many is EQC has no sympathy for claimants who challenge them. It has a well established track record of obstructive or abusive relationships with claimants who question or push for results. Why would EQC change now? The answer is there will be no substantive change with this Service in place.

By creating the Service EQC are able to put dispute resolution in a place outside their organisation, and on favourable terms, without the accountability (such as it is) of external scrutiny (Audit Office, Ombudsman, Privacy Commissioner, Treasury).

Costs

The mediation process is free, but this applies only to the actual process itself and the mediator who will run it. EQC looks after the costs of putting it's side of the issue while you pay your costs. If you will be presenting expert reports, and/or have experts attend mediation, that is your cost. The legal advice and preparatory work will also be your cost. In some cases your insurer may need to be involved (e.g. contents claims over $20,000 or claims close to the cap.) Will they expect you to pay their expenses?

Somewhere in this process it would be helpful to keep an eye on the balance between what you might gain and the cost of achieving that. Will it be worthwhile? If not, is there an alternative? Maybe - see at the end.

There are also very personal costs to consider, costs that don't involve money. Mediation can be a rough process where negotiators use tactics and behaviours that would be considered offensive in other circumstances. How would you fare under these circumstances? More on this below.

Risks

The first risk you face is being overwhelmed by the process. EQC will enter into mediation with the sole intent of defeating your claims and pushing you into agreeing to their position. EQC will be represented by experienced negotiators who know all the tricks of the trade. The mediator isn't a referee and there is nothing to stop EQC's negotiator from being what you see as hard-nosed, deceitful, confusing, bullying, and wilful in failing to understand your point of view. These are just some of the tactics used in mediation. Auckland lawyer and mediator Nigel Dunlop has written about these tactics, and how they are used in mediation, on his website here. It is daunting reading.

The second significant risk is that of cost. EQC is funded by the government and us, as policy holders. They can spend as much as they like on negotiators plus expert reports and advisors. You have to fund your own team. If the process becomes drawn out your costs will increase. Can you afford it?

The third risk is that you will enter into mediation inadequately prepared and suffer as a result.

Preparing for mediation

Nigel Dunlop, mentioned above, has a web page on how to prepare for mediation (here). Reading this is essential to ensure you have a clear understanding of what is involved. The topics he covers are:

  • what do you want to achieve?
  • what might you realistically achieve?
  • how will you go about persuading the other party you to agree with you?
  • what would you be prepared to settle for?

Throughout the list is a link to detailed preparatory questions. AIMNZ have a small checklist here, but with a great deal less attention to detail.

Those who are not properly prepared are likely to lose badly.

Settlement Agreement (download a copy here)

This is the fourth document, the one you sign when settlement has been reached. Most of its contents are similar to what is found in the commercial world, but can cause shock to those unfamiliar with the amorality of that world. It is important to note that the wording of the Agreement can be negotiated, although possibly a the cost of more time, effort, expense, and EQC resistance.

Clauses of most interest or risk are:

Parties: is your insurer going to be bound by this settlement?

Section 3 - What do the customer, and any additional party, agree to: As far as the Settled Matters (an issue discussed in Sunday's blog) are concerned, you must stop all legal proceedings, not commence proceedings in the future, and not make a complaint against anyone relating to the settled matters (e.g. for professional misconduct). You can see how important it is to ensure the matters you are mediating are very carefully described, to avoid a generalisation that doesn't solve all issues, but prohibits you from getting everything sorted.

Para 3.4 takes away your right to speak out about any of the issues involved with the settled matters.

Section 5 - Full and final settlement: This settlement is it. If you left something out, but it relates to the settlement, you cannot take it further. Again, it is important to clearly and concisely state what the matters are.

Section 13 - Confidentiality: These sections add to the confidentiality obligations in the Mediation Protocol (see Sunday’s post). They exist to further restrict what can be disclosed. Note that these clauses (12-15) can be negotiated, however the benefit(s) of change would have to be weighed against the increased cost.

Section 16 - Payments when there is a mortgage. If there is a mortgage on the property your bank may have an interest in the money paid out. This bit needs to be sorted with your lawyer.

What alternatives are there?

If you don’t want to use EQC’s Mediation Service, can’t afford it, or pull out if it gets out of hand, the traditional approach would be to take court action. This could have a better chance of success if the stakes were high enough because EQC, like the insurers, might give up rather than create a legally binding precedent. An expensive topic to discuss with a lawyer.

A free, and less daunting, process might be CERA’s Residential Advisory Service (RAS). The CERA web page for this is here. The RAS does not require you to pay for expert witnesses, or  reports, and should be a less aggressive environment to air your issues and have them tested.

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Monday, May 6, 2013

Updates and clarifications to the MBIE’s guidance for repairs and rebuilding in Canterbury

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) has published a page of updates, clarification and further information on technical issues relating to MBIE’s guidance ‘Repairing and rebuilding houses affected by the Canterbury earthquakes’. These issues result from feedback received on the guidance since its publication in December 2012 (here). 

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Sunday, May 5, 2013

Comments on the EQC Mediation service - Part 1

This first post covers the basic information relating to EQC’s Mediation Service. The Service has a website here.

To access the process you must first be approved by EQC as being a suitable candidate. There is an EQC brochure A Guide to the EQC Mediation Service (here) which sets out the basics. The information topics in the brochure are:

  • Who can use the EQC Mediation Service?
  • How does the EQC Mediation Service work?
  • Do I have to pay for it?
  • Who is bound by the mediation settlement?
  • What happens if there is no settlement?
  • What are the criteria for being offered mediation?
  • What if I haven’t been offered the service but would like to use it anyway?

This brochure is an important starting point, especially as mediation is not available for some of the major issues that exist between claimants and EQC.  Areas of dispute that are covered by the Service must contain one or more of the following elements:

  • A dispute which concerns matters of opinion (e.g. value of contents) that can be discussed and mediated
  • A disagreement with the assessed value of repairs, with an expert opinion to back it up
  • A dispute over building damage which was assessed by EQC as pre-existing, and for which the customer has evidence which they believe disproves this.

For those eligible for mediation there are three initial documents used with the EQC Mediation Service. They are:

1    Agreement to Mediate
2    Confidentiality Undertaking by Non-Party Attendees
3    Mediation Protocol

The documents have been prepared by the AMINZ (Arbitrators' and Mediators' Institute of New Zealand – website here) who are an organisation independent of EQC. Having said that AMINZ are paid by EQC and, as will be seen, the documents have been drawn up with EQC's interests in mind. The purpose of each of the documents is:

Agreement to Mediate (copy available here)

This is relatively straight forward document, but very important to get right. The highlights are:

Section 3 of the form requires the setting out of the issue or issues you have with your claim(s). How you word this will set the boundaries on what can be mediated. It will also prevent you from raising the issue later, once you have settled (see also below). If you are unclear on what to put, or how what is listed will affect your future options, get legal advice.

Section 4 is where the mediator is nominated, and this is your responsibility. See the Mediation Protocol for more on this.

Section 5 is where you agree to accept the Mediation Protocol.

Confidentiality Undertaking by Non-Party Attendees (copy available here)

If additional parties are involved (e.g. technical experts or specialists) they will need to sign this. The confidentiality agreement affecting you, the claimant, is in the Mediation Protocol and Settlement Agreement.

Mediation Protocol (copy available here)

This document sets out the mediation process and covers confidentiality, settlement, costs, fees and payments, exclusion of liability, and termination of the mediation process. Highlights and potential pitfalls of the protocol are:

Section 3: Appointment of Mediator. You, the customer, get to select the mediator but have to do so within five working days of agreeing to proceed with mediation. If you don't appoint a mediator AMINZ will do so. There is information about mediators on the EQC Mediation website here. If you are contemplating mediation then it may pay to investigate which mediators you want to nominate before signing up.

Section 5: Representation and Attendance. You, or your representative, must attend in person. If you appoint a representative (probably a lawyer) you must give them full authority to settle on your behalf. That person must also be sufficiently knowledgeable to be able to answer questions about the dispute.

Section 7: Conduct of Mediation. It is possible for the mediation process to be done via conference calls and video links. If you are not used to this technology you are likely to be at a major disadvantage, and other issues may arise such as knowing who is speaking or hearing clearly what is being said.

All parties must agree before conference calls and/or video links can be used so feel free to say no. It would be a lack of commitment on the part of the mediator, or the other parties, if they weren't happy for you to require face to face meetings. They may consider themselves busy people, but getting a process you are comfortable with is essential to your future wellbeing.

The mediator is impartial so you are on your own. Parties are expected to co-operate in good faith but that doesn't guarantee what ordinary people would consider a "fair go". There will be more on this in Part 2.

Section 8: Settlement. This part covers what happens when a settlement is agreed, or if there is no agreement. Section 8.3 contains an important recommendation regarding legal advice  - get some before you start the process.

Section 9: Confidentiality. Confidentiality clauses are widely used in mediation, and are nearly always designed to protect the major player in the process. This document is no exception. What this section means, for example, is if you get a decent settlement for a problem others share you cannot tell them what happened (other than you got a settlement you are happy with). It is a divide-and-conquer approach so that every claimant will need to go through the same process without knowing information that would be vital to their success. Should the result be one you are unhappy with the confidentiality agreement prevents you from raising the issues.

As it happens Section 9.7 provides a confidentiality exception for EQC and AMINZ. They are allowed to publish summaries of mediations providing all identifying material is removed. It is likely that EQC will use this to demonstrate situations where they feel exonerated, while remaining silent when they have had to make concessions. There is more on this in the discussions of the Settlement Agreement document in Part 2.

Part 2

In Part 2 the very important 4th document will be looked at, along with the significant risks that exist within the process.

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Friday, May 3, 2013

Geotech update from Southern Response

Southern response have released an update on their geotechnical testing here.

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Thursday, May 2, 2013

Survey on the potential uses of the Avon River Residential Red Zone

Lincoln University are running an on-line survey to establish what residents consider to be important in the redevelopment of the Avon Residential Red Zone areas.

The survey is here.

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Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Brownlee, Sutton and today’s judicial review application

The NZ Herald (here) has reported that forty Red Zoners applied today to the High Court for a judicial review of the Crown offers made to them.  The particular circumstances of the case are that the people concerned either own bare land (and couldn’t get insurance) or were uninsured.  They consider the amount offered by the Crown inadequate and inappropriate. They also consider Minister Brownlee did not engage with them over their concerns. Minister Brownlee and Roger Sutton were named in the statement of claim.

When asked for comment Minister Brownlee “…wouldn't comment because the matter is before the courts.” A very proper position for the minister to take.

While the review is before the court the question arises whether CERA will  make further attempts to get these Red Zoners to take the existing offer, and get out of the Red Zone by the 31st of July. Would that be proper? Should they be left alone, in the Red Zone, until the review is completed, however long that takes?

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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Southern Response - update to web page “Who will I work with on my claim?”

Southern Response have updated their web page Who will I work with on my claim? here.

The text, as it now reads, is shown below with the additional text highlighted. It is interesting to also note that the page now shows both the date of publication and the date it was updated. This is a welcome step in coming to grips with how information is evolving (thanks folks).

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Red Zoners and CERA’s Residential Advisory Service

As is their continuing practice, CERA have announced a process – this time the Residential Advisory Service (RAS) - with no supporting detail. It commences on the 20th of May and might be the way to break through the problems between the insured, insurers and their project management organisations (PMOs).

With the 31 July departure date approaching a few are still stuck in the Red Zone because there is no closure with insurers. Could the RAS be the means of getting these people unstuck? To what extent will it help those in TC3 or TC2 with problems?

The potential value of the RAS for Red Zoners hinges on factors not yet public (or perhaps not yet worked out). On the face of it, the Service is likely to be suitable to process simple to moderately complicated issues of genuine misunderstanding, or an inability to pull all the bits together. It is optimistic to see the apparent premise of the Service, producing results through better provision of information and opportunities for conversations, as the solution to more complex or entrenched problems. 

The background against which the RAS will operate is bleak. The observation has been made that anxiety and humiliation is experienced by sensitive and honest people when they are forced into contact with people whose standards are commercial. This is a bewildering and damaging experience, being exposed to the brutal legalism and calculating adversarial approach of insurers and PMOs who have a different set of values, and very different rules of corporate and personal motivation and conduct.

Sometimes residents encounter employees not averse to misunderstanding, misleading or pressuring where they can. This puts residents at risk of being wilfully misled by one-sided policy, building code, and building contract interpretations. The result is loss of legitimate entitlement, loss of equity, and loss of wellbeing.

How will CERA ensure the RAS process is strictly neutral, free of the tactics of hard bargainers, and motivated to produce prompt, credible results?

The RAS Process (click the link to continue)