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Saturday, 24 March 2012

Parliamentary report on the Canterbury earthquake emergency response

A Parliamentary committee has found that the Government's emergency response system was not adequate to the needs of the February 22nd earthquake.

Brief, and generally a reflection of what was experienced on the ground, it concludes with the news that there will be a cross-Government exercise to evaluate the lessons from the Government response to the earthquakes.

The following is from the relevant part of the report:
Canterbury earthquake response
Following the Canterbury earthquakes, the department, particularly the Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management which sits inside the department, was responsible for controlling and coordinating the response during a ten-week state of national emergency. It provided various services, including facilitation, procurement, and reimbursement, in the initial response and aftermath. The department is proud of its efforts, especially those of the Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management.
We commend the department for its response to the earthquakes, and particularly for the communication provided to local members of Parliament, councillors, and community boards. This communication was critical to the recovery.
Lessons learned
We and the department share the view that although the response to the earthquakes was excellent, future responses to national emergencies should be different. The department said it had learnt a lot from the earthquakes, the second of which resulted in a national state of emergency being declared for the first time. The department said that although the Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management’s national emergency policies responded well to the earthquake they were not designed for such a big event. Therefore it struggled to respond on the scale needed, and it was difficult to create a capable structure to coordinate local and central government responses to the earthquake.
We were concerned to hear that building safety engineers were inadequately trained and prepared to carry out building safety assessments, and that building safety placards did not articulate the status of buildings clearly to their owners.
The department told us that its engagement with community volunteers was sub-standard, and that it needed to improve its ability to facilitate community involvement in disaster response, and to provide information to and receive information from the community. We share this view, particularly in regard to the department’s unsatisfactory response to offers of help from the community. We understand that this response led to resentment in the community. We believe that legislative change is needed to address problems with departmental interaction with communities, and we encourage the department to advocate for such legislation.
A cross-Government exercise will evaluate the lessons from the Government response to the earthquakes. We encourage the department to engage fully with this process and we look forward to seeing the results of the analysis.
The Committee's findings are part of the Report of the Government Administration Committee's review of the Department of Internal Affairs released on Thursday. The full report (5 pages long) can be found here.

Friday, 23 March 2012

EQC- FAQ on TC3 land

In EQC's broader FAQ there is a section where aspects of TC3 land are explained. The topics covered are listed below. If you are TC3 and your land is damaged you should read this stuff.
  • What exactly is TC3?
  • What’s the relationship between TC3 and damage to my land?
  • How does TC3 status affect my insurance claim?
  • How long will EQC take to complete geotechnical engineering work on TC3 properties?
  • Will the house still be insured if the foundations are undamaged and therefore not brought up to TC3 standard?
  • Some land claims issues
  • Will insurers still honour a policy and repair a house if the land underneath is considered uneconomic to repair?
  • What does EQC cover as part of a land claim?
  • Is EQC planning to stop covering land?
The web page is here.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Update: Opting out of Fletcher/EQR

This is an update on the post made in February last year. Information on the FAQ part of the EQC website has changed since then. The latest version is reproduced below, and is on EQC's website here.

Be aware that choosing to go it alone is a high risk option. Any cost over-runs will be your responsibility, as will compliance costs.

Also be aware that EQC change the content of their FAQ often and DO NOT FLAG THE FACT that there have been changes. Consequently, check regularly if you are relying on the content of their website.

Opting out of using Fletcher EQR

EQC has engaged Fletcher EQR (Earthquake Recovery) to manage the repair of homes with damage between $10,000 and $100,000 (+GST) per event.

This includes some homes that have total damage over $100,000 (+GST) but sustained damage in multiple quakes. If that damage is below $100,000 for each event, the claim will be referred to the Canterbury Home Repair Programme.

What are the benefits of staying with Fletcher EQR?

You will not incur extra costs if the repair works exceed the EQC estimate.

All liabilities around the repairs will be covered by EQR, with any defects in the quality of the repair work put right by the EQR team at no cost to you.

Fletcher EQR will have full responsibility for managing all facets of your project including:
  • obtaining all building consents and design work
  • ensuring that all the work is completed to the standards set down in the Building Act
  • conducting quality audits as the repairs proceed
  • obtaining and forwarding to you copies of all relevant Code Compliance Certificates (at the conclusion of the work).
If you have a preferred contractor you may still be included in the scheme and retain all the scheme's protections, provided your contractor is accredited with Fletchers. Your contractor can apply for accreditation by emailing contractor<at> For further information visit Fletcher's website:

Can I opt of using Fletcher EQR? (click the link to continue)

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

CERA Earthquake recovery update newsletter

The latest CERA Earthquake recovery update newsletter is available on their website here.

Topics include:
  • Free financial advice for residential red zone property owners (page 3)
  • Checklist for red zone residents (page 4)
  • SCIRT update
  • Section 45 notices at Redcliffs and Sumner
  • New "pop-up" cinema
  • Rebuild Christchurch's "Let's Get it Done" day
  • River of flowers commemorating 22 February
  • HomeShare helps recovery
  • Community events listing

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Insurance and the Queensland floods

The final report of the Queensland Floods Commission of Inquiry was released on the 16th of March. At just over 650 pages it provides extensive cover of the events and consequences of last year's floods.

Significant insurance issues arose during the Inquiry, which covered them in some detail in Chapter 12 Performance of private insurers, including:
12.5.3 Timeliness of internal dispute resolution
12.6 Communication with policy-holders. In this area the submissions to the Commission raised a number of issues about communication. Complaints included the following:
  • Insurers had dissuaded policy-holders from making claims.
  • When they telephoned their insurers, policy-holders spent long periods of time on hold or could not get through.
  • Insurers had not provided regular information about the progress of claims and had not returned policyholders’ phone calls.
  • Insurers had told policy-holders, incorrectly, that their claims would be covered when they called to lodge claims.
  • Insurers had not provided a single point of contact: policy-holders had to deal with different staff at different times.
  • Insurers had, in some instances, treated policy-holders less than professionally or compassionately. Insensitive or inappropriate remarks had been made to some policy-holders.
12.6.1 Multiple case managers
12.7.4 CGU’s desktop assessment process
12.8 Information to policy-holders whose claims were denied
12.9 Internal dispute resolution
The Commission's recommendations regarding insurance are reproduced below. Neither New Zealand private insurers nor EQC are close to following the Commission's recommended practices and some action is needed to push them in the direction of this better form of practice.
12.1 When a policy-holder makes a claim, the insurer should ascertain the policy-holder’s preferred method of contact and ensure that it is used (with other modes of communication if necessary) to keep the policyholder informed about the progress of the claim. However, important decisions regarding the claim – for example, determinations about the outcome of the claim and settlement sums – should always be confirmed in writing.
12.2 Insurers should review their existing systems and processes and implement any improvements necessary to ensure that accurate and complete records of conversations with policy-holders are made.
12.3 Letters notifying policy-holders that their claims have been denied should, at a minimum, state the information upon which the insurer has relied in making the decision. These letters should also advise policy-holders that copies of the information will be made available upon request (in accordance with clause 3.4.3 of the General Insurance Code of Practice) and indicate how policy-holders can make a request.
12.4 The Insurance Council of Australia should consider an amendment to Part 3 of the code which requires insurers to notify policy-holders of the information on which they relied in assessing claims.
12.5 The Insurance Council of Australia should amend clause 3.4.3 of the General Insurance Code of Practice so that it requires insurers to inform policy-holders of their right to request a review of an insurer’s decision to refuse to provide access to information on which it relied in assessing claims.

The Report, either a single PDF file or individual chapters and sections, can be downloaded from 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?

A particularly interesting account is the interaction between CGU and one of its customers: Sallyanne Doyle. Over a number of pages the Commission recounts Ms Doyle's battle with CGU, its dubious methods, and inadequate staff (especially the CEO). Gripping stuff, especially for those who have had a few encounters with EQC. The main bit starts on page 315 but the important background starts a few pages earlier.

Monday, 19 March 2012

CERA video: Your Health - Advice from the experts

Over the weekend CERA ran a programme, Your Health - Advice from the experts, on Maori TV.

For 29 minutes a panel discussion led by Roger Sutton covered:
  • how the health system is managing with damaged resources
  • the impact of the physical environment on individuals (dust, mould, cold)
  • the effect on individuals of the ongoing issues of living in Christchurch
  • how people are responding
  • the outlook for the future and how to respond
  • how to look after yourself.
Panel contributors were Canterbury District Health Board chief executive David Meates; the medical officer of health Ramon Pink; a GP with links to the mental health sector, Dr Jeremy Baker and; anxiety specialist Dr Caroline Bell.

The video is available on-line here.