21 Feb 2016

Protests and memorials ahead of quake anniversary

6:01 pm on 21 February 2016

On the eve of the fifth anniversary of the 2011 Christchurch earthquake, about 1000 people have been protesting in Cathedral Square to demand a deadline for the settlement of claims.

Hundreds protest tardy insurance claims in central Christchurch.

Hundreds protest tardy insurance claims in central Christchurch. Photo: RNZ / Conan Young

The protest organisers want an external review of the way the Earthquake Commission (EQC) has handled insurance claims from the 6.3 magnitude quake in 2011.

They also want a deadline put in place on the time allowed for the commission and insurers to settle claims.

Protesters held up signs saying 'Honour Your Policy', 'Regulate the Insurance Industry' and 'EQC is Corrupt'.

About 5500 homeowners are still waiting for their claims to be settled, as insurers and EQC argue over who is responsible for paying out on claims and whether damage to homes is pre-existing.

Patricia Wallace is a Christchurch resident who has had three different repair strategies put to her by her insurer.

But she said none of them took account of the fact the land was prone to liquefaction and that situation was contributing to depression.

Pam Vickers owns a unit in a quake-damaged apartment block.

She said because the body corporate was made up of 30 individual owners, each with their own insurance policy, she was unlikely to see her claim settled this year.

In December last year EQC moved to clarify how long people have to take legal action against it, after concerns were raised about restraints contained in legislation.

A sign expressing some people's attitude in Christchurch to the Earthquake Commission.

A sign expressing some people's attitude in Christchurch to the Earthquake Commission. Photo: RNZ

EQC chief executive Ian Simpson said there was no specific deadline for legal action to be taken, because each case was based on a six-year timeframe from when a claim was settled.

He said how limitation legislation applied to policies provided by private insurers may differ and people should talk with their private insurer, and potentially their lawyer, about their individual claims.

Earthquake Commission staff gather outside the Civil Defence headquarters on Thursday.

Earthquake Commission staff outside the Civil Defence headquarters (file photo). Photo: RNZ

Families of Japanese students attend tree planting ceremony

The families of people who died in the 2011 Christchurch earthquake are gathering in the city this afternoon for a tree planting ceremony.

The trees will be planted on the banks of the Avon River, close to where a memorial is planned.

Tomorrow marks five years since the 6.3 magnitude earthquake claimed 185 lives.

Among the family members at the tree-planting will be 18 from Japan whose children died in the CTV building collapse.

Search and rescue teams at the site of the  collapsed CTV building in February 2011.

Search and rescue teams at the site of the collapsed CTV building in February 2011. Photo: AFP

The building collapsed when the quake hit. Of the 185 people killed in the quake, 115 died in that building.

A Christchurch local who has been helping the Japanese families, David Bolam-Smith, said they had struggled to come to terms with what happened.

"I've got two kids who were living in Japan for four years, teaching, and I used to think sometimes, if I heard it on the news, if it had happened to them - I hate to think about it even.

"I just feel so sorry for what they have been through, those parents."

He said the families of those who died remain angry that nobody has been held accountable for the collapse of the CTV building.

Red Cross helps a quarter of Cantabrians

The Red Cross grants programme has helped one in four Cantabrians since the 2011 earthquakes, according to the organisation's secretary-general. Tony Paine said that amounted to 110,000 people.

He said New Zealanders and international Red Cross societies donated more than $103 million to the Canterbury Earthquake Appeal and $109 million worth of grants and recovery programmes had now been distributed.

By June 2017 the figure would rise to $120 million, he said.

Mr Paine said in the past five years, Red Cross had distributed 43,000 torch radios, 14,000 winter warmer packages (including a blanket, socks, gloves, soups and chocolate) and made more than 4700 outreach visits.

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