14 Dec 2020

New package for claimants who settled with Southern Response before October 2014

3:27 pm on 14 December 2020

The government has set up a support package for Canterbury claimants who have been short-changed by Southern Response for their earthquake repairs.

David Clark

Minister responsible for the Earthquake Commission David Clark. Photo: RNZ / Nate McKinnon

Last year in a landmark case the High Court found the government's claim settlement agency Southern Response misled and deceived Karl and Alison Dodds.

The couple accepted an offer almost $200,000 lower than a secret higher estimate to fix their house despite having the 'best insurance policy money could buy'.

In September the High Court ordered Southern Response to pay the Dodds almost $180,000 in damages plus costs.

The government has now set up a package for other Southern Response Claimants who settled before October 2014.

Minister responsible for the Earthquake Commission David Clark said the package would offer top-up payments to customers in a situation similar to the Dodds.

Payments may include professional fees, a contribution to legal fees, unpaid contingencies, and interest.

Clark said there were about 3000 claimants who settled with Southern Response before October 2014 who may be eligible for the package.

"I'm not at liberty to say how much it's going to cost specifically but what I can say is that the Crown is committed to pay what is fair."

Clark said the package would be overseen by an independent oversight committee to ensure each and every case is settled fairly.

He said there was no timeframe for the package but that we wanted things resolved as soon as possible.

Southern Response has filed court proceedings today to seek permission to contact people who may be eligible for the package.

"It's clear that these people haven't received a fair deal and that's why the Crown is committed to paying what's fair and setting this right," Clark said.

Speaking after today's Cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said it did not show the Crown had thrown in the towel.

"It's an acknowledgement of what people have gone through and what needs to be resolved," she said.

"What we need to keep in mind here is it's about fairness and whether or not those individuals have been treated fairly and that's what needs to be resolved after many many years of heartache and potentially down the track at great legal expense, and it makes sense for us ... to resolve the issue."

She did not have details of the costs of the legal battle on hand.

"Ultimately there are a range of issues in Christchurch that we have inherited and have tried to resolve. We were very open that in pursuing the case with the Dodds - and they understood why we were doing it - we just needed to get some parameters to understand fully what the court understood ... in order to make a judgment about how to finalise things with everyone else that was involved."

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs