EQC denies delays in paying for quake repairs

2:53 pm on 11 March 2011

The Earthquake Commission (EQC) says it has 475 invoices waiting to be paid for Christchurch emergency work but none of them are more than a week old.

EQC has come in for criticism from some tradespeople and homeowners who say they have had to wait four or five months to be paid, and in some cases haven't yet been properly assessed so that work can begin.

It says most of the 475 outstanding invoices are for repairs arising from the 4 September quake but none is more than a week old and invoices are being turned around in 11 days.

It acknowledges that the turnaround time could become slower as the volume of invoices swells as a result of the 22 February quake.

It has so far received about 58,000 claims arising from that quake, and may eventually get more than double that number.

EQC chief executive Ian Simpson has denied claims by Master Plumbers that red tape is holding up urgent work.

Cap lowered by 80%

But the chair of the Master Plumbers board, Mark Whitehead, says any plumbing job costing more than $2000 must be assessed by EQC and approved before work can begin.

He says the cap after the September quake was $10,000, which made it easier for plumbers to get the work done.

Mr Whitehead says EQC still hasn't paid for some of the emergency plumbing repairs carried out following that quake.

As a result, he says, some Master Plumbers members are having difficulty paying their staff and ordering materials for work currently needed in Christchurch because of the February quake.

Mr Simpson insists that payments are up-to-date, although some invoices, he says, have been delayed because they lack the necessary information such as GST or claim numbers.

One case of 'no payment at all'

Mr Whitehead says there have been payment delays of up to four months, and one a householder has yet to receive any payment at all.

He says a Kaiapoi plumber was still waiting in January to be paid for $100,000 worth of work completed in October, and had to enlist the help of the Earthquake Recovery Minister before it was finally paid.

Shirley resident Barry McArther, who needs a new hot-water cylinder and his floor repaired because of damage done by the September quake, says he is yet to hear from EQC.

Mr McArther says the $2000 cap has caused him real problems.

He says his floor needs to be repaired, but builders won't even consider fixing it unless he is prepared to pay the full bill; and repairing the cylinder alone will cost more than the cap amount allows.