Lessons must be learned from Christchurch residents’ difficult experiences in dealing with the Earthquake Commission, a Parliamentary select committee has been told.
The select committee is considering public submissions on the Natural Hazards Insurance Bill, which will replace the 1993 Earthquake Commission Act. It came to Christchurch at the invitation of the Mayor to hear first-hand about the city’s post-earthquake experiences.
While in Christchurch, the Committee took a bus tour through parts of the city hit hard by the earthquakes so that it could get a better understanding of the damage and the impacts on the affected communities. The mix of coverage of expert commentary, personal experience and community needs and impacts was well articulated by staff and Councillors alike.
At the Select Committee hearing afterwards, Head of Strategic Policy and Resilience, David Griffiths presented Christchurch City Council’s submission on the Bill. He acknowledged the importance of a having national insurance scheme like the Earthquake Commission, but spoke of the devastating experiences that Christchurch residents had dealing with EQC after the quakes.
In many cases, disputes with EQC had dragged out for years, leaving residents feeling unheard and frustrated about damage to their homes.
The Council submission acknowledged the post-earthquake experience in Christchurch had given rise to the need for changes to the Earthquake Commission Act.
A huge number of people made submissions to the Public Inquiry into the Earthquake Commission in 2019, led by Dame Silvia Cartwright.
The Council is relieved to see that many things being proposed in the Bill are in direct response to the experiences people shared with the inquiry, and are aimed at improving how we recover from natural hazards so that the process is fairer and more efficient.
“After years of experience through Christchurch’s earthquake recovery, EQC has learned some valuable lessons and begun to address some of the most problematic issues. This Bill goes a long way to solidifying some of these lessons learned,’’ the submission states.
However, the submission notes there is still some key issues that need addressing. For example, the Council wants a people-centric response embedded in legislation and all the processes associated with assessment and claims made explicit.
The Council also says that in order for the Government to respond appropriately to future large scale natural hazard events, it must have the capacity for assessments and claims handling, with private insurers taking the frontline role.
“Legislation must be explicit in what will be covered by the new NHC (Natural Hazards Commission) and what is covered by insurers. Councils should be consulted as a matter of course to ensure that a connection can be made with local communities, and that there is clarity of responsibility before any natural disaster occurs. Only then can there be a truly people-centric system,’’ the Council’s submission says.