10 Apr 2017

Erin Brockovich: 'Don't cheat the people'

From Checkpoint, 5:27 pm on 10 April 2017

US lawyer and environmentalist Erin Brockovich says New Zealand insurance companies need to "step up" and help Cantabrians still waiting for repairs on their earthquake-damaged homes.

In Christchurch, as part of her role as a consultant for Australasian law firm Shine Lawyers, Ms Brokovich visited the home of Ian and Marama Malzard in Richmond.

She said she was amazed that some claims were still not resolved six years on from the earthquake, and said the insurance companies were dragging the claims out "to save another buck".

"In almost 22 years of doing this, it's always about the almighty dollar and frankly 'to hell with the people'. It's wrong and it's gone on too long," she said.

Her own story was immortalised in the film that bore her name, with Julia Roberts playing the lead in an Academy Award-winning performance.

Since that film, which dramatised her real-life victory against the Pacific Gas and Electric Company over its contamination of a community's groundwater, Ms Brockovich has spoken to a range of communities and individuals - anyone pitted against corporate or political might.

Her message to the people she met was always the same: if you are right and they are wrong, don't give up. She said she learned that tenacity from her mother.

"My mom always taught me to have stick-to-it-iveness, and its definition is a propensity to follow through in a determined manner and dogged persistence, born of obligation and stubbornness.

"Life requires you have stick-to-it-iveness and [the people of Christchurch] cannot give up."

Persistence would pay off for them, Ms Brockovich said.

"I tell people Superman is not coming so 'tag' - you're it. Get busy as a consumer; educating yourself, informing yourself and becoming empowered by that and standing up for yourself. When we do it collectively and we make that push back, you can see change."