Napier man still in fight with Earthquake Commission two years after flood destroyed home

8:55 pm on 9 November 2022
Napier man Paul Matthews is in a fight with the Earthquake Commission as he tries to recover from a flood that wreaked havoc in the city.

Paul Matthews' house was significantly damaged two years ago in the Napier flood and there's been little progress since. Photo: Tom Kitchin/RNZ

A Napier man is in a fight with the Earthquake Commission as he tries to recover from a flood that wrecked havoc in the city.

Two years ago today, about 600 properties were damaged as a freak flood caused slips and overwhelmed the streets with water. Napier City Council have called it a one-in-250-year event.

Paul Matthews said officials believe his Hospital Hill home had the worst damage in the city, as a huge landslide crashed into the back of his house.

On the two year anniversary, his house was still deemed a 'dangerous building' and could not be occupied. His hallway was still full of a blend of dried mud and sewage.

Paths on either side of the house were inaccessible because the weeds were so overgrown.

Napier man Paul Matthews is in a fight with the Earthquake Commission as he tries to recover from a flood that wreaked havoc in the city.

Paul Matthews' backyard is now full of weeds. Photo: Tom Kitchin/RNZ

Matthews said "physically nothing" had changed since last year, "apart from another year of overgrowth and I guess also another year of expenditure on engineering and so forth".

He had also found out his home needed to be demolished.

"I spent 25 years on this house, renovating it, and I pretty much done everything you can think about it, and I've brought my kids up so it's been a home and I've poured my heart into it, I've poured all my money into it.

"It was destroyed mostly in seconds, when the landslide occurred but just watching a house deteriorate over two years like this, it's not nice to watch.''

Getting the land sorted had been one of the hardest tasks, as he dealt with Toka Tū Ake EQC (the Earthquake Commission).

"It's been costed to fix the land at $1.6 million, and the payout from EQC was $240,000, so I'm $1.3m short," Matthews said.

His lawyer sent a letter to EQC calling the settlement ''woefully inadequate'', seeking to speak with the Commission otherwise taking legal action.

But just yesterday, they got a reply and part of it said: "We acknowledge that a customer's entitlement is sometimes not sufficient to carry out the required remedial solution and some customers may need to involve their private insurer or contribute to the repair themselves. While we sympathise with your client's circumstances, EQC cover has statutory limits."

Matthews argued that was unfair and said EQC was no longer there for the people.

"Prior to the Christchurch earthquake, EQC used to look after you. After the earthquake and Christchurch, you get given the money and EQC walk away and leave you to it and there's no further support."

EQC said it was one of only a few insurance schemes in the world to cover land damage. But it did have limits defined by law.

"I want to reiterate that we acknowledge the stressful situation Mr Matthews has found himself in and our staff have worked closely with Mr Matthews to support his claim so he could be paid his full statutory entitlements quickly and efficiently," its chief readiness officer Kate Tod said in a statement.

But Matthews said his next stop could be the courthouse.

City Infrastructure

Meanwhile, the local councils said they were busy making improvements to flood-torn infrastructure in the city.

Mayor Kirsten Wise said upgrades to pumps and pipes were a big part of it.

"There really is quite a comprehensive plan across the whole city. We were really fortunate to get $12.1m through the [government's] infrastructure [acceleration] fund which is directly related to marine stormwater and investing in that.''

Napier City Council has at least another $30m of work planned around other parts of the city, such as the CBD and Te Awa.

The Hawke's Bay Regional Council said it had invested $450,000 in improvements along the waterway network and had $2.1m still planned.

This included pump replacements and refurbishments.