6 Oct 2013

EQC disaster planning flawed, report finds

3:33 pm on 6 October 2013

A highly critical independent report on the Earthquake Commission's response to the Canterbury earthquakes says there was a staff culture that no disaster would strike within their working life.

Wellington consultancy Martin Jenkins and Associates completed the report in March 2012, but it was not released publicly until an official information request was lodged with the commission.

The report says that before the first quake on 4 September 2010 the Earthquake Commission (EQC) had a comfortable family culture, with an attitude of "nothing will happen before I retire".

It says when the disaster struck some people were able to respond well, but others had no idea of what they were doing.

The consultancy's report says EQC struggled with scaling up to deal with a major disaster, and relied heavily on outsourcing.

It says that allowed some suppliers to take advantage of the crisis and impose high contract costs and contracts that favoured the supplier.

The report shows one contractor charged $6 per page to scan documents when much cheaper alternatives existed.

The commission's chief executive, Ian Simpson, says the earthquakes involved the kind of damage that might be expected in wartime, and many far-reaching decisions had to be made in far from perfect circumstances.

Mr Simpson, says it's hardly surprising there were shortcomings and says any review would find much that could be done better, in a perfect world.

'Lessons not learned'

A critic of the EQC meanwhile says he has seen nothing to show the organisation has corrected faults outlined in the report on its response to the Canterbury earthquakes.

Mark Krieger, an ex-EQC employee who runs the EQC Truths blog, says he thinks there needs to be major personnel changes at the organisation to change its culture.

"If you look at what's been happening in Seddon, the same mistakes that occurred in Canterbury are happening in Seddon as well so in that sense it doesn't appear that they've learned any lessons."

Mr Simpson says EQC is dealing with the issues raised in the report, but notes it is also rapidly changing as it moves through the phases of the emergency response.