Stress, sadness still clouds Kaikōura, three years after quake

From Checkpoint, 6:08 pm on 14 November 2019

Kaikōura business owners say stress and sadness from dealing with insurance companies still hangs over them, three years to the day a massive earthquake rocked the town.

On November 14, 2016 a 7.8 magnitude earthquake devastated the East Coast of the South Island.

Kaikōura was among the worst-hit destroying homes, businesses, roads, and the main rail line.

While the roads have mostly reopened, trains are back running and tourists are returning, some Kaikōura locals are struggling to move on.

They say getting insurance paid out in the aftermath of the quake has been like getting blood out of a stone - and it's taking its toll on their health.

Penny Betts runs Gecko Gears. She imports clothes from Nepal to sell in Kaikōura.

After the quake she was barred from her building. However she quickly managed to get access so she could start selling again.

But it was hard. Most of her customers are tourists and they weren't coming anymore.

She persevered and when the road reopened, the tourists came back. Her building however, was a different story.

She is insured through the insurance brokers Crombie Lockwood. Assessors came early on. But after three years, Penny says nothing is resolved.

She says her engineers believe the building will cost about $300,000 to fix, but her insurer has only offered her $33,000.

A third engineer was sent in May to try and come up with a resolution, but Penny has yet to hear the outcome of their visit.

Crombie Lockwood told Checkpoint they are in regular contact with Penny, and her claim is complicated.

They said they're waiting for the outcome of an engineering peer review, which was the visit in May.

The insurer said it expects to make a new settlement offer.

Penny's story is sadly a common one in the township. What happened in 2016 turned David McKee's world upside down.

He is the town's pharmacist. The day after the earthquake he went into work and found every piece of stock - medicine, makeup, sunscreen - on the floor.

David hoped dealing with his insurance company would be simple. He moved into a temporary building nearby, which he knew he only could have for two years.

He said his insurers denied and delayed on a pay-out. David and his engineers believed the old building - worth $1.1 million dollars, was a write-off.

He says the insurance company offered $200,000.

He does not want to name the insurance company as he has since settled - and got all the money he asked for.

But he says getting money out of them was like trying to get blood out of a stone, and dealing with their loss adjustors, a complete nightmare.

In the last few weeks David started losing hair. He is now bald.

David blames that entirely on the stress that he has been through over the past three years.

It's been a journey, and he says it's nice to be at the back of it.