EQC defends work of quake damage assessors

8:07 am on 25 July 2013

The Earthquake Commission is defending the quality of earthquake damage investigators following claims they have wrongly assessed earthquake damage in Christchurch homes.

Some homeowners say their houses are dropping in value because the commission is using incompetent investigators who have incorrectly assessed the extent of the damage to foundations caused by the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes.

Tony Somers, who lives in the Christchurch suburb of St Martins, says EQC did not carry out any floor measurements at his home during assessments after both earthquakes.

Mr Somers says he has spent two years fighting to get the EQC to accept an independent surveyor's finding that the house has an 82mm tilt in the floor and its foundations need repairing.

Burwood resident Selwyn Stafford says when EQC assessors found a 40mm bend in his floor, he hired an independent surveyor who discovered the tilt was actually 85mm, but says EQC will not accept the revised figure. He says his house is now more likely to flood and fears its value has dropped.

Surveyor Adrian Cowie has been working on behalf of private clients unhappy with the commission's survey assessments.

Mr Cowie said floor level measurements by EQC assessors are invariably less than the 50mm threshold at which they must be fixed, and house sales are falling through when surveyors hired by potential purchasers find the floor is tilting by more than that.

EQC's manager for the Canterbury Home Repair Programme, Reid Stiven, says the vast majoriy of assessments are accurate and are done by highly qualified engineers.

"I rely on their expertise. These people are members of IPENZ (Institution of Professional Engineers New Zealand), they're registered qualified engineers that come from a number of large consultancies across New Zealand."

Mr Stiven told Radio New Zealand's Morning Report programme the 50mm threshold was not set by EQC but is a guideline established through an engineering advisory group, and the comission adheres to it in every instance.

He says if homeowners get second opinions from independent engineers, the EQC always reviews them.

A project manager for a company accredited to manage repairs on the home repair programme on behalf of Fletchers EQR said he had not seen any floor level data in any of the 260 houses he had worked on.

The contractor, who wants to remain anonymous to ensure the company's accreditation is maintained, said one of the first houses had cracks that broke it into quarters, but no levels were taken and he wasn't sure what they were doing to repair it was right.

Institute of Building Surveyors president Philip O'Sullivan said 1960s-type behaviours are being applied to level measurements. He said some of the organisations' builders in Christchurch have voiced their concerns to him about issues such as people not calibrating the instruments used.