6 Mar 2014

Seddon rebuild forging ahead

10:27 am on 6 March 2014

Eight months on from the Cook Strait earthquakes, repairs and remedial works are continuing apace in Marlborough.

The Earthquake Commission (EQC) has resolved more than 70 percent of all the claims it received from the hardest hit town of Seddon, with $11,238,660.44 already paid out.

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Photo: RNZ / Alison Hossain

Many local residents say it's a far cry from the trials and tribulations experienced by so many Cantabrians and say they're relieved at how things have been handled.

Marie Flowerday from the Awatere Community Centre has been instrumental in acting as a go-between for local residents as they deal with EQC and contractors.

She said they just can't put our finger on anything that hasn't really worked for Seddon.

"If we have an issue, we go back to EQC and we have an answer usually within hours, not days. I think EQC has learned many lessons from what went on down there and the other thing too is that it's a different scale of event. You know we're a small rural community as opposed to a city."

Marlborough mayor Alistair Sowman agrees dealing with EQC hasn't been as bad as they first feared.

"It was much better than we anticipated. There was a lot of talk about what happened down in Christchurch and people could wait a long time," he said.

"But I actually congratulate EQC for what they've done. Yes there are some difficult issues out there where one or two are not happy, but in the main, people have settled well and they're happy. It's about getting on with their lives again now."

Shirley Lemaire, whose Seymour Street home was badly damaged, said they are so relieved to have life back to normal again.

"It's beautiful and warm and it feels finished; lovely. You know a lot of the bricks from along here mainly from the top had fallen down, the other end was worse, they'd all collapsed. But it's lovely to see them all up again."

Her husband, Richard, says they've been very impressed with the EQC process: "They were very good. I heard a lot of people in Christchurch complaining but we've got no complaints. The guy who did the assessment was so fair."

Miles Smart, who owns a number of properties in Seddon, says he thinks priority given to the elderly has paid off:

"Some of us oldies are getting looked after really well. I'm pleased that most of the shakes have stopped now. I don't want them coming back in a hurry at all."

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Photo: RNZ / Alison Hossain

Some residents in the outlying areas of Blind River, Ward and in Blenheim itself are still awaiting their settlements.

In total, 4138 claims were made in Marlborough and so far, 1117 have been settled.

EQC chief executive Ian Sampson says they had to prioritise those worst-hit:

"We've concentrated on claims near the epicentre where the worst damage was experienced, with a particular emphasis on ensuring the vulnerable were cared for," he said. "

We're making excellent progress. To date, across the whole Cook Strait event, we've completed 95 percent of assessments and paid out nearly $17 million in claim settlements."

EQC has previously admitted the new claims and inspection system it used for the Cook Strait quakes has proved much more efficient than that deployed in Christchurch.

Mr Sampson says EQC aims to have all claims from the Cook Strait quakes settled by February next year.