19 Apr 2018

EQC accused of ignoring true extent of damage to Chch homes

From Checkpoint, 5:09 pm on 19 April 2018

A Christchurch man says EQC misled him about the earthquake damage to his home and deliberately under-scoped the repairs that were needed.

David Townshend said he repeatedly told the government and EQC that the damage to his house had been under-scoped, but felt his warnings were ignored.

The Earthquake Commission (EQC) assessed his house as having severe structural damage and needing a new foundation after it was badly damaged in the September 2010 earthquake. 

But the structural damage was removed from the scope after the February 2011 earthquake. 

Checkpoint revealed earlier this month that EQC has so far spent $270 million on re-repairs, for work that was faulty or to repair damage that had previously not been identified in scopes. 

The EQC contractor, who was tasked with repairing Mr Townshend's home, told the crown agency in 2014 the damage to Mr Townshend's house was far greater than what was set out in its revised scope. 

"He raised the issue and said 'I don't think that you're describing the damage properly', and they just told him to stick to their scope."

The contractor, who Checkpoint has spoken to, said he "was instructed to give a quote for the scoped repairs", which did not include all the earthquake damage he had identified. 

"Quite quickly he ended up admitting to me that the view that he'd ended up giving EQC in writing in a quote was not what he'd originally found himself and he felt he was under some pressure to provide a quote that didn't reflect his own view of what the earthquake damage was."

Mr Townshend had to use the Official Information Act to obtain information EQC held on his home, including the scopes and contractor's quote. 

"It became obvious that they were misleading me, that they were purposefully over-riding what a contractor said was required.

"They didn't deal with it in my settlement, they settled me for less, they settled me for his quote that they knew wasn't correct and he knew wasn't correct."

In 2016, Mr Townshend wrote to EQC's then-chief executive Ian Simpson, former EQC Minister Gerry Brownlee's office, EQC's then-board chairman Sir Maarten Wevers and made official complaints to EQC. 

He only heard back from Mr Brownlee's staff who said they would try to encourage EQC to manage his complaint, he says. 

But at the time it seemed no one in EQC was interested in investigating the systemic issues.

Last September, seven years after his house was damaged by the earthquake, Mr Townshend reached a cash settlement with EQC. It went over cap so was passed on to his insurer, who he also reached a cash settlement with. All up, he was given more than $500,000 to repair his home. 

It is "astounding" people seem so surprised that so many re-repairs are needed and that hidden damage might still be uncovered, Mr Townshend said. 

"I am a little bit gobsmacked it's taken this long to come to the surface but absolutely it needs to and it needs to be properly addressed." 

A spokesperson for Gerry Brownlee said his office found the contact they have had with Mr Townshend and said they provided all the support a constituency MP was able to offer.