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Saturday, 26 May 2012

Human Rights Commission - Canterbury Earthquakes: review and appeal rights

The Human Rights Commission have launched three web pages for those affected by earthquakes.

The first, Canterbury Earthquakes: review and appeal rights, is here. The introduction to the web page states:
This information collects in one place the review or appeal rights for common situations people face arising out of the earthquakes in Canterbury. It does not claim to be a comprehensive review of all the appeal and or appeal rights. If you would like legal advice you should consult a lawyer.
This information comes from the websites of the Christchurch City Council, CERA, Fletcher Earthquake Recovery, the Office of the Ombudsmen and from research by the Human Rights Commission.
Some review and or appeal rights relate to a particular issue and others apply in most, if not all, situations.
The issues covered by the page are:
  • The review of red stickered notices
  • Obtaining reasons for decisions made by a council about you
  • Zoning decisions
  • Declining the government’s offer
  • Obtaining reasons for decisions made by CERA about you
  • Repairs
  • General Zoning Issues
  • Other rights of review/appeal
  • Accommodation, property, landlords and human rights
The second is the web page (hereWhat complaints processes are available if I am unhappy with the Fletcher Earthquake Recovery or building contractor repairs/service provision? This is a distillation of appeal information from the Fletcher/EQR website.

Surprisingly there is not a page dedicated to EQC - what there is will be found buried in the third page on repairs (here).

These pages are a useful bringing together of information for those in the Green Zones who are new to the problems of zoning and insurance. As they are based upon information from official sources there are no new insights, or silver bullets, for those in the Red Zones.

Friday, 25 May 2012

IAG – bad at playing nicely, or just misunderstood? Part 1

According to various news reports on Wednesday IAG Insurance was "genuinely surprised" to learn some of its customers (via State Insurance, an IAG company) are in the process of taking legal action against them. See the Press article here.

It is true, as the IAG spokesperson said, there are talks going on in the background aimed at resolving some issues. But who are the agencies involved, what is being discussed, and what do they hope to achieve? As always there is no openness, just another one-sided Minister Brownlee sideshow. Is IAG involved? Could they make any meaningful contribution if they genuinely don't know what concerns their clients' have?

In this part of the world it is hard to imagine anything genuine about IAG and it's subsidiaries. Yes, where an assessment is blindingly obvious, they will be sweetness and light - there is no alternative. The moment there is a situation that can in any way be deemed unclear, the behaviour changes. In our area, as in others, they have been active in downgrading assessments from rebuilds to repairs, and high value repairs to lower value repairs.  Trying to get full information from them about assessment details and costings has been made into a difficult and demoralising process. Cooperation and communication seem to be gaps in IAG’s vocabulary and operating manual. Is this a fair reflection on the multi-national Australian company? In my opinion it is.


The behaviour of an IAG Australia company was strongly criticised by the Queensland Floods Commission of Inquiry (Chapter 12, Performance of private insurers, see here).  One of the worst (possibly the worst) performing insurance companies after the floods was CGU (part of IAG – see the IAG website in Australia here). 

CGU were criticised for their failure to cooperate with the Commission (providing incomplete information, withholding information, and being inaccurate). In addressing CGU’s shortcomings in providing information for the Inquiry, the Commission said: “… the insurer was neither careful nor diligent in its responses to Requirements.”(S 12.3.1).

In the case of CGU’s dealings with clients, and one client in particular, the Commission dedicated a number of pages to describe the shortcomings of both the company’s processes and also the staff, with particular reference to the CEO. (p 308-319)

Have  Minister Brownlee, CERA staff, and staff from the Department of Building and Housing read Chapter 12 of the Report of the Queensland Floods Commission of Inquiry? If they have they would know most of the inadequacies displayed by insurance companies in Queensland (e.g. poor communication with policy holders, poor processes including assessment systems, poor treatment of policy holders) are in practice here. Quite a coincidence really. Or is it the culture of the insurance industry in Australasia or further afield?


Thursday, 24 May 2012

Ansvar insurance update

A news item on the web site provides an update on what is being arranged for Ansvar’s clients (here).

The following are excerpts from the article:

Church-based insurer ACS (NZ) Ltd, the former Ansvar New Zealand, has written to policyholders to inform them of a June 12 meeting in Christchurch.

The New Zealand High Court has directed ACS to hold the meeting to discuss a scheme of arrangement with its creditors – the claimants – so they may vote on approving the scheme and, if necessary, determine the members of an initial creditors’ committee.

Ansvar CEO Andrew Moon said previously that the scheme would only be triggered if ACS directors determine that liabilities exceed assets, or if creditors’ claims can no longer be met in full.

If the scheme is not approved, ACS says it will continue to manage claims, but could be “vulnerable to increasing claims” and other factors that may endanger its solvency.


Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Post-earthquake stress

We are all aware of the difficulties of living through and after a disastrous event. There are also the difficulties of trying to understand what is happening to and within us, and others.

Some very good online articles have been published dealing with the effect of stress on Japanese earthquake and tsunami survivors. The articles are based upon research published this week in the journal Nature, Molecular Psychiatry.

Perhaps most significant for my understanding was the descriptions of physical changes to the brain (shrinkage) that were measured. Those who are predisposed towards post traumatic stress disorder (and without a brain scan, no one knows this in advance) are particularly vulnerable to changes caused by stress.  For them, shrinkage caused by stress in a particular region of the brain doesn’t have to be great to affect their responses to fear and anxiety. Symptoms will include some or all of flashbacks, emotional numbness, sleeplessness and hyper-vigilance.

Good information is available from the sites listed below (click on the name). The Nature website has an abstract, however you have to be a subscriber to access the full article. The Japan Times report is very full and makes this observation of the changes experienced:

"We think these changes are not permanent, because many past studies showed that brain changes were recovered by some therapies or interventions," said Sekiguchi. "To confirm this, we have already started to follow up the subjects."

Nature: Molecular Psychiatry

Medical Xpress

Science Mag ( American Association for the Advancement of Science)

Japan Times

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

EQC topping up reinsurance

According to insurance website EQC is increasing its reinsurance cover to $NZ5 billion ($3.9 billion).

The gist of the news is that the cost of reinsurance is going up and the reinsurance periods may be getting shorter. Probably not really news however, for those who like figures, the report is here.


Help coming soon from the Human Rights Commission?

The following web pages are on the HRC site, but password protected for now. Apparently they are still under development and will soon be accessible to the public.

Canterbury Earthquakes: review and appeal rights

What complaints processes are available if I am unhappy with the Fletcher Earthquake Recovery or building contractor repairs/service provision?

Monday, 21 May 2012

NZ Human Rights Commission on the Christchurch Earthquakes

The NZ Human Rights Commission (HRC) produced a submission in March this year as part of it’s implementation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)

From the HRC web site:

This submission focuses on the Christchurch recovery, and three key enduring challenges for New Zealand identified in New Zealand’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR), other treaty body recommendations, and highlighted in the Commission’s 2010 review of human rights in New Zealand:

  • violence
  • inequality
  • the full and effective incorporation of international human rights obligations.

A copy of the report can be downloaded from here.

Red Zone legal issues

On Saturday I received an e-mail from a Linwood lawyer who has a Red Zone client in the process of taking his insurance company to court. The lawyer wondered whether there were other Red Zone residents who might be interested in joining forces.

The text of the e-mail is below. If you Know someone who may be interested please forward it to them.

Hello, I stumbled across your blog and email address while doing some research for a client.

I am instructed by my client to bring proceedings against an insurance company in respect to significant damage to a red zoned home. The insurer is claiming that it can resolve my client’s insurance claim by paying the nominal cost of repairs as if the home were situated on a solid building platform. You will be familiar no doubt with the insurer’s tactics.

The case will no doubt be a test case and given the costs likely to be involved my client is interested in knowing if any parties were interested in joining in proceedings or contributing to the funding. I would be grateful if you were able to circulate this email and/or let me know other organisations who were likely to have members or contacts who could be interested in becoming involved.

We have an opinion and a motivated barrister and are really only looking now to advance the funding.

Please feel free to give me a call on Monday if you would like to discuss.


Peter Richardson, Partner, Linwood Law, PO Box 24111, Christchurch. Phone: 3892121, Fax: 3899122 Email: