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Saturday, 27 October 2012


In the blog on EQC’s Michael Wintringham’s reply to CanCERN (here), community group REAC was mentioned twice.

Residents EQC Action Campaign (REAC) represents those who have been failed by EQC’s two year history of on-going ineptitude.

Still in it’s formative stages, REAC is so far endorsed by: Addington Action, Beckenham Neighbourhood Association, CanCERN, CowPats, FIRST Union, Hobgoblin Network, Parklands Recovery Group, St Albans Residents Association, TC3 Residents Group, Travis Country Residents Group, WeCan.

You can read more about REAC here.


Earthquake Royal Commission – eight more technical reports on representative city buildings

As with yesterday’s post, these documents are the supporting technical information underpinning the Royal Commission’s examination of the buildings named (click on the building name to go to the report):


Friday, 26 October 2012

Earthquake Royal Commission – technical reports on representative city buildings

From the Royal Commission’s website:
The Royal Commission's Terms of Reference require the examination of and reporting on a representative sample of buildings. The majority of these are reported on in Volume 2 of the Royal Commission's Final Report.

The document’s made available yesterday are the supporting technical information underpinning the Royal Commission's examination of the following buildings (click on the building name to go to the report):

Craigs Investment Partners House - 90 Armagh Street

Westpac Tower - 166 Cashel Street

Christchurch Civic Building - 53 Hereford Street

Christchurch Central Police Station - 48 Hereford Street.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

EQC response to CanCERN letter

The link here is to EQC Chair Michael Wintringham’s response to CanCERN’s request that a new CEO be appointed to EQC.

The response was predictable. Given the lack of action to correct the on-going systemic problems exhibited by EQC it was unlikely that the Board of EQC was going to suddenly see the light. The important thing is CanCERN has put the matter on record. A record that remains open.

To my mind Wintringham’s response is yet another smoke screen where the realities of EQC’s continuing bad performance is masked by tenuous claims of having made great efforts to improve the lot of those who have claims with EQC. Tenuous claims such as:

  • CanCERN having unparalleled access to EQC senior management (for discussions - yes, results leading to improvements in the quality of service to claimants – no),
  • having introduced a free mediation service (only after having caused great distress to many claimants, available to those few who EQC decide are suited to it, and only if the issues aren’t substantive i.e. no questioning EQC’s interpretation of legislation and no questions relating to apportionment),
  • and that customers have been given certainty and timely and relevant information (anyone who believes this is tragically misinformed – there are few cases of people in the Red Zones receiving this level of service and the same pretty much goes for TC3. Presumably they don’t yet know of REAC.  No mention either of EQC recently getting a ticking off from the Office of the Ombudsman for their abysmal performance in handling Official Information Act requests.)

As it stands the CEO of EQC has the Chair’s full backing. Presumably this backing has the full support of the Board who are comfortable in thinking EQC has performed acceptably. Time will tell if they are correct. I’m sure there was a time when the Board of ACC had a comfortable feeling.

Finally, if Mr Wintringham feels that the tone of CanCERN’s letter was antagonistic, I’d love to be around when REAC start pounding on his door.

Postscript: For those who, like me, thought the the name Michael Wintringham was vaguely familiar, it may be because of publicity relating to WINZ CEO Christine Rankin. There is a New Zealand Herald article of July 3, 2001  relating to that issue here.

Time for a new CEO at EQC

Most people who have had dealings with EQC are aware of the organisation’s numerous shortcomings, invariably resulting in personal and family frustration, confusion, delays, stress, and hardship.

Two years past the first earthquake and EQC still fails to demonstrate any ability to work with its clients in an open, effective and civilised way. Senior managers have fiddled with different approaches to carrying out their business, always tinkering and seemingly subservient to the needs of overseas reinsurers and indifferent to the needs of New Zealanders. Time for a change at the top.

Two days ago CanCERN wrote to Michael Wintringham, Chair of the Board of EQC, requesting that a new CEO be appointed (the text of the letter is below).  The media release and report mentioned in the letter are also below.

If you have views on this please make an effort to express them.  Gerry Brownlee, who is the Minister responsible for EQC, knows about Facebook so that would be a good place to start.

(NOTE: EQC Chair Michael Wintringham has responded to the CanCERN letter. See the blog regarding EQC’s response here. This note added 26/10/2012)

Earthquake Commission
Attention: Michael Wintringham
23 October 2012

Dear Mr Wintringham

Canterbury Communities’ Earthquake Recovery Network (CanCERN) was established immediately following the September 2010 earthquake in Canterbury to ensure the residents of the worst affected communities had a voice within earthquake recovery. We currently have a membership of over 40 resident based groups.

During the past two years, we have sought to work collaboratively with most earthquake related authorities and organisations to identify ways in which the recovery could be improved from both a resident and organisational perspective. We have been meeting with staff from EQC since late 2010. During this time we have seen very little evidence of the leadership necessary to lead the Earthquake Commission through a natural disaster of this scale.

EQC Executive Leadership Team has performed at an inappropriate level. A number of these managers have failed to respond successfully to the ever growing and varied accounts of failure, both systemic and operational, which have been raised directly and indirectly over the past two years.

There has been an overall neglect of duty with regard to addressing issues of claimant communication, operational adaptation, professionalism and customer service.

Due to consistent failures as detailed in the accompanying report, we ask for the Chief Executive to be replaced with someone is who more capable and competent to deal with the situation we have.

If you would like to discuss this, please do not hesitate to contact Leanne Curtis.

Please note the attached media release is embargoed until Thursday 25 October, 7am.

Yours sincerely

Ali Hughes
CanCERN Board

Leanne Curtis
Relationship Manager

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

CERA, its values, and the 30 April deadline

The world of the earthquake-affected is generally aware the Government offer to Red Zoners, and especially the maximum settlement date of 30 April 2013, was premised upon a number of factors that haven't materialised, assumptions that turned out to be unrealistic,  and a lack of foresight by those who set the date and manufactured it's justifications.

Since the setting of the date the situation has been exacerbated by more earthquakes and incompetence in critical places. Despite this the Crown Offers drawn up before the obstacles created by EQC, insurers, and the market in general, changed the playing field completely, are the objects of gross intransigence.

The biggest issue for those wanting to rebuild is failure of the market to meet the needs of  Red Zoner’s. A primary failure is in making available, on time, suitable sections for those entitled to rebuild. The NZ Herald reported yesterday (here) that the Minister of Finance Bill English told Parliament "housing affordability remains a deep-seated, complex and serious problem,'' and “Despite demand for low cost houses, relatively few are being built - in part because of the very high cost of land, particularly in Auckland,''.  The idea the problem “remains deep-seated” is important here. This is not a recent discovery – the problems associated with affordable housing have been around for a while. Clearly this is Christchurch’s problem too.

Along the way an expectation was created that suitable land would become available, people acted upon that expectation, and it hasn't happened.  Why did CERA help create this expectation? Was it a mistaken belief, or politically soothing misinformation? Whatever the cause, the fact remains that many of those entitled to a rebuild won’t have a new home before the 30th of April.

How is CERA dealing with the conflict between the impending deadline and the externally inflicted inability to move on?

  1. CERA has stated it is mindful of the need for land to become available for people with Red Zoned properties. That is a fine thing, but does not seem to be backed up by results. Practically all land that has become available, and is scheduled to become available in the next six months or so, is beyond the financial reach of Red Zoners. The sections cost much more than the valuation attributed to Red Zone sections. Covenants place restrictions that push building requirements beyond what is provided for with home insurance policies. Has CERA analysed this? Does CERA have up to date information on what is happening, and the extent to which it is genuinely relevant to those who have been Red Zoned? Has CERA any idea what the land affordability situation is? If CERA does, where are the encouraging numbers? If the numbers are not encouraging, what is CERA going to do about it?
  2. We are told CERA is working closely with local government and the private sector to open up land for residential development. Has CERA checked to see how much of the land that will become available is relevant to the needs of those who are Red Zoned?  Again, will it be affordable and have covenants that encourage rather than obstruct prospective Red Zone settlers? Will titles be issued in time for building to be completed by the 30th of April? If not, what will CERA do about it?
  3. We are also told CERA is monitoring the situation closely. To what purpose and how is this being done? How will monitoring help people stuck in the Red Zone get a new property built by the 30th of April?

CERA ran an extensive campaign advising people to take their time and make a considered decision - now CERA wants to pressure them into hasty action to meet an increasingly meaningless deadline.

The pursuit of the 30 April deadline is further victimising those who have suffered not only earthquake damage but delays caused by EQC, delays caused by their insurance companies, and massive market failure. CERA's conduct in this matter just heaps further misery upon those least able to do what they want to do - get out in one piece.

As we look about we see many people being harmed by the blinkered, intractable, and brutal officiousness they keep encountering. We see them aging prematurely and harming themselves through anxiety and inappropriate coping. The University of Canterbury has research to demonstrate this. How long will it be before we have our first acknowledged "death by CERA"? Will this become an emotional cancer taking it's toll for decades to come?

What has the greatest value to CERA - the 30th of April or human wellbeing? They can’t have it both ways.


Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Avonside and post-earthquake health issues

The University of Canterbury yesterday published results of research into how people in four suburbs were coping with post-earthquake stress.

On the website Rebuild Christchurch (here) the two research projects are described without identifying the suburbs concerned. The New Zealand Herald (here) identified the suburbs as Avonside, Cashmere, Hornby and Mount Pleasant.

It is probably no surprise to read these observations in the New Zealand Herald:

Clinically significant levels of acute stress were identified across the suburbs, but clinically elevated depression and anxiety were only evident in the most affected suburb - Avonside.

Levels of drinking, anxiety and depression were higher in Avonside and Mt Pleasant, compared to the lesser-affected other two suburbs.

The following are extracts from the Canterbury University’s post on Rebuild Christchurch:

Participants in the more affected community reported greater symptoms of depression than the less affected community a year after the February earthquake. Prolonged periods of helplessness and ongoing post-disaster disruptions, along with distress and anxiety were factors associated with depression.

The more physically affected community were dealing with ongoing daily disruptions, shovelling silt from liquefaction all over again following large aftershocks, loss of utilities, living in severely damaged houses and for others relocation as their homes became uninhabitable with further quakes, loss of neighbourhood and many community social networks had gone.

In addition there was an increase in alcohol consumption reported as a result of the quakes and is an important finding especially as increased alcohol use is a common characteristic of depression following disaster as people try to cope with stressors, and is consistent with previous post-disaster research.

Monday, 22 October 2012

House demolitions

Demolition of Susanne’s house at 44 Cowlishaw Street started on Wednesday, and was pretty much completed by Friday. The demolition was dusty, as someone forgot the hose, however the debris removal process was suitably controlled. Click on a photograph to enlarge it.

The Red Zone house demolition statistics for our little part of the world now stand at:
  • Retreat Road   12
  • Cowlishaw Street 3
  • Avonside Drive 2