20 Jan 2016

Christchurch family in housing limbo

9:11 pm on 20 January 2016

A Christchurch couple with serious health issues were told by their insurers they would be back in their quake-damaged home within six months.

Instead, Loretta and Nick Te Paa are still living in cramped, uninsulated temporary accommodation with their two young children.

Christchurch construction.

The 6.3 magnitude earthquake on 22 February 2011 damaged thousands of properties in Christchurch. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

On 22 February, it will be five years to the day since 185 people died and thousands of properties were damaged in a 6.3 magnitude earthquake in Canterbury.

The Earthquake Commission's website states that, of 167,000 properties with a building claim, 2 percent remain unresolved.

Loretta and Nick Te Paa

Loretta and Nick Te Paa Photo: RNZ / Checkpoint

Government-owned insurance company Southern Response started rebuilding the Te Paa family's home in Woolston in 2013.

A change in the classification of the land, a burst in a council stormwater pipe that ran through it and flooding from a nearby creek meant the foundations were now on their fourth round.

Mr Te Paa has a chronic illness that has seen him receive two kidney transplants, and contract Type 1 diabetes and an incurable flesh-eating disease.

He said, despite the insurer putting them on a vulnerability list for rebuilding, they were still waiting.

"It's like Groundhog Day. Every day, the same thing sort of happens. It goes around and you think you're getting somewhere then it starts again."

Mrs Te Paa, who has now been diagnosed with depression, said the last five years had been extremely difficult.

"Living here, living with no storage and no space, watching people move out, come and go, and just not having a home."

Labour leader Andrew Little said the government needed to take action to ensure Southern Response finally dealt with all outstanding earthquake claims.

Mr Little today talked with four Christchurch households who were customers of Southern Response and still waiting for repairs to be completed or started - including Mr and Mrs Te Kaa.

When the government bailed out AMI Insurance and created Southern Response, he said, it should have ensured the company set an example for how to handle insurance claims.

"Five years on, it is a time for us all to reflect that, actually, for the government as the owner of Southern Response, to say five years, you know, this is long enough.

"If there are still outstanding claims, then find out how many there are - and for the government to instruct Southern Response 'your duty now is to expedite the completion of these claims - get them done."

There seemed to be no sense of urgency from Southern Response, Mr Little said.

Southern Cross responds

In a statement, a spokesperson for Southern Response said it was committed to getting all of its customers back into "safe, quality homes" as quickly as possible.

The spokesperson said they sympathised with Mr and Mrs Te Paa's situation and were doing their best to support them.

They said the couple's rebuild was on a heavily compromised site, in a flood management area on TC3 land, which meant it required more complex design solutions than typical rebuilds and substantial ground remediation to meet consenting standards.