EQC and insurers seek clarity on payouts

10:07 pm on 14 June 2011

The Earthquake Commission and Insurance Council will ask the High Court to rule on the complex question of coverage arising from the two major earthquakes in Canterbury.

The commission and council have agreed that a joint move offers the best certainty for the industry following the quakes on 4 September last year and 22 February this year in which 10,000 claims were made.

EQC and the Insurance Council will lodge papers with the Wellington High Court seeking a declaratory judgement on how to apply the Earthquake Commission Act following the unusual situation of two major quakes so close to each other in the same place.

The EQC says the ruling will offer certainty and ensure the smooth processing of claims by the insurance industry. It has has classified Monday's 5.6 and 6.3 tremors as a new event.

Insurance Council chief executive Chris Ryan says he welcomes the clarity the court decision will bring.

Mr Ryan says it will ensure the insurance industry and the Earthquake Commission can work out who pays what, with EQC covering up to $100,000 for properties and $20,000 for contents.

The Earthquake Commission says it hopes the Monday's quakes will not set back the process of settling claims and making repairs.

However, chief executive Ian Simpson told Checkpoint with a large number of claims expected, some people may be in for a long wait.

Meanwhile, the Insurance Council says the latest quakes will have serious consequences for insurance in New Zealand.

Chief executive Chris Ryan says Christchurch's ongoing tremors mean New Zealand may be seen as a high-risk nation for re-insurers, and that will affect insurance premiums.