31 Aug 2020

'Needle not moving' as botched EQC re-repairs still coming in - Megan Woods

From Checkpoint, 5:43 pm on 31 August 2020

Some 10 years on from the devastating Canterbury quakes, the wait is still not over when it comes to law changes needed to improve the Earthquake Commission.

The government will not get it done until 2021, if it's re-elected. Meanwhile cases of botched quake repairs needing a fix are still flooding into EQC, Greater Christchurch Regeneration Minister Megan Woods told Checkpoint.

In April an inquiry headed by Dame Silvia Cartwright found the EQC was ill-prepared to deal with the widespread damage of the quakes, or to handle a mass-scale managed repair programme, leading to multiple mistakes and inadequate quality control.

The report made 70 recommendations and today the government announced it was accepting or doing more work on all of those.

"We'll have a report back to Cabinet in March 2021 if we had the privilege of forming the next government, and in the middle of the year starting that legislative work so it is a key priority for us to make sure that we do keep up the momentum that we've brought to EQC in our first term," Woods said.

"One of the things Dame Sylvia's report absolutely underscored is the work that needs to be done to make sure that we have bits of government joined up, that we've got the right organisations that are running this and making sure that we don't have another group of New Zealanders going through this.

"This is not going to be a simple piece of legislation to reform, so I'm not going to say we're going to have finished legislation in 100 days because it is going to take longer than that to work through some complex insurance issues."

She said of the cases she saw when coming into government, 98 percent had been resolved.

"The cases that are coming in now are of those botched repairs… this is a situation that the people of Canterbury should never have been put in. That's why I'm saying I'm committed to doing this properly.

"The fact that we have now spent $560 million on fixing botched repairs is something that is of course a great deal of frustration to our government."

There are 110 cases in litigation. The coalition government had reduced that number from 873, Woods said.

"Basically we're not really moving the needle a lot on the number of cases coming through because as many re-repairs for botched jobs are coming in as cases we're settling each month."

Woods said using EQC again was a discussion yet to be had, and would not rule out using the organisation again to manage repair programmes following earthquakes in New Zealand.

"EQC was actually warning the previous government that they were under-resourced to take on that role in the first place. So I think that is certainly something that needs some serious consideration."

The minister's office provided the total amount the Crown has paid to top up the depleting Natural Disaster Fund. That figure is $240m as of June 2020.

Checkpoint has requested EQC provide the running total of money it has spent on court costs and legal fees relating to Canterbury claims.

EQC said it needed more time to get the numbers and would provide the details soon.