12 Aug 2016

EQC has no plan to deal with botched repairs

8:25 pm on 12 August 2016

Leaked documents reveal the Earthquake Commission has yet to come up with a plan to deal with botched earthquake repairs.

About 300 people with repairs they say have been botched turned up to the meeting.

Photo: RNZ / Conan Young

The revelation is contained with its restructure proposal, which would see staff numbers cut in half including in Christchurch.

This is despite 5600 claims on the commission's books in the city - including botched repairs, missed damage and new damage.

The documents, which were leaked to Labour Canterbury spokesperson Megan Woods, showed the details of how remediation work would be handled had yet to be determined.

Ms Woods said the four options pinpointed by EQC to deal with second-time repairs all pointed to a lean structure.

She questioned whether it was putting in sufficient money and staff to get the work done.

Ms Woods said this was not the time to be winding back on the number of staff working in Christchurch.

"We have to realise that these are people who have already been through this once. This is people going back to get their repairs repaired. This isn't the first time for these people, so these people simply cannot be left waiting, they need to get on with their lives."

Meanwhile, the Earthquake Commission was a no-show at a meeting of hundreds of people complaining of botched earthquake repairs.

More than 300 people packed into last night's meeting in Christchurch, organised by advocacy group EQC Fix.

The group was established in the wake of a landmark court settlement that found the commission had to repair homes to a higher 'when new' standard, rather than the lower pre-earthquake benchmark it had previously been using.

The meeting was held just a day after EQC announced plans to wind up its operations in Christchurch and lay off hundreds of staff brought on board to help settle earthquake claims.

EQC chief executive Ian Simpson was invited to address the meeting but didn't show up last night.

Earlier in the day Mr Simpson said he was confident the 115 staff he was keeping in Christchurch would be sufficient to deal with requests to fix botched EQC repairs.

At the meeting, it was standing room only as those dissatisfied with the quality of their repairs gathered to hear what they could do about it.

Homeowner Ray Oakes said he had planned to retire but now had to keep working in order to fund legal action to get EQC to fulfil its obligations.

He knew straight away the repairs it had ordered would not work, he said.

"I said to the builder... this is not the right repair strategy because the [foundation] levels were out and you're not fixing it.

"And he just didn't listen, because I said to him I will not be signing it off."

His home had been left in a sorry state, Mr Oakes said.

"It runs out one side to the other 108mm and also there's humps in the floor."

Cracks in the foundation had been repaired but had re-cracked, he said.

Wayne Reid was still waiting for his repairs to be completed.

"I've been living in my house for five and a half years with exposed asbestos, water running down two walls inside the house, black mould, [and] sewage underneath the house."

After lodging an Official Information Act request for the reports EQC held about his house, he discovered it had originally been assessed as having sustained damage worth $290,000.

EQC later watered that down to $79,000, he said.

"Every time I see Ian Simpson's smiling face I feel like throttling him, and I know I shouldn't say that but that's the way I feel."

He could not afford to take legal action and EQC knew that, Mr Reid said.

Advocacy group EQC Fix spokesperson Melanie Bourke addresses a meeting of Christchurch homeowners.

Advocacy group EQC Fix spokesperson Melanie Bourke addresses a meeting of Christchurch homeowners. Photo: RNZ / Conan Young

EQC Fix spokesperson Melanie Bourke urged people to visit the group's website for free advice on how to ask for a review of EQC-ordered repairs.

"The effort, the energy, the expense, the time has gone into the insurance industry, the building, the technology... and for me it's felt like there's been this enormous vacuum on information for us as a homeowner as to how we navigate legislation and insurance contracts," Ms Bourke said.

Nobody should underestimate the battle they had before them if they chose to take on EQC, she said.

"I've talked about getting engineering briefs and getting instructions and getting those professionally written, because then you're in a lot stronger position when you go into battle."

Homeowners also need to get their heads around individual litigation and group litigation, Ms Bourke said.

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