7 Nov 2013

EQC working to resolve problems, says chief

6:13 am on 7 November 2013

The head of the Earthquake Commission says its service has delivered a huge amount to post-earthquake Christchurch but, given its workload, there will inevitably be people who are unhappy.

An Audit Office report has found deficiencies in the commission's complaints procedures, the way it communicates with customers and the speed with which it deals with vulnerable homeowners such as the elderly.

The report into how EQC has performed in managing the home-repair programme in Canterbury says that, overall, the Crown entity's performance is mixed.

The commission has repaired more than 40,000 homes at a cost of $1.5 billion from September 2010 until June this year. It found that 20% of homeowners surveyed who had repairs completed in 2013 were dissatisfied with the quality of the work.

EQC chief executive Ian Simpson told Radio New Zealand's Morning Report that given the EQC has been dealing with 170,000 cases there are going to be people who are dissatisfied.

"I've never said this programme's perfect but it has delivered a huge amount. The reason that a lot of people are stressed is that they've been through an enormous natural disaster and we need to be comparing the levels of response to Hurricane Katrina, to what's happening in Japan. We can't compare it to how life was before the earthquake."

Former EQC assessor Bryan Staples says the survey was based on just 1% of the 80,000 households in the programme and he also believes it was selective in who it surveyed. He says a document he obtained on behalf of a client includes the words 'do not survey' showing EQC is controlling the survey.

Thousands of claims excluded

The Earthquake Commission has admitted that about 31,000 claims have been unintentionally excluded from customer surveys in the past three years.

Chief executive Ian Simpson says an internal check confirmed the presence of an automated flag in the claims management system which meant customer claims were not included in the sample for its quarterly nationwide satisfaction survey.

The 'do not survey' flag is present on about 31,000 out of 154,000 claims. Mr Simpson says he has asked for the use of the flag to be reviewed.