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Letter to Hon. Gerry Brownlee

CanCERN Media Release – 23 May 2013

The following letter which has been sent to Minister Gerry Brownlee was also originally cced to John Campbell - Campbell Live, Ian Simpson - EQC Chief Executive, Michael Wintringham - EQC Board Chair, Lyn Provost - Office of the Auditor General, Dame Beverley Wakem DNZM CBE - Parliamentary Ombudsmen, David Rutherford - Human Rights Commission, Gabriel Makhlouf - Secretary to the Treasury.

It has since been sent to all local MPs with a request that they follow up and give due consideration. It was also sent to many community groups and many have sent their own letter endorsing the contents of the CanCERN newsletter.

We would welcome the opportunity to discuss the merits of the suggestion in this letter and the expectations that we have of resolution.

The Letter:

Hon. Gerry Brownlee
Minister of Canterbury Earthquake Recovery

22 May 2013

Dear Minister Brownlee

Firstly we would like to thank you for conducting the Campbell Live interview on Monday 20 May regarding the resident’s plight with the Earthquake Commission. Acknowledging their voice is the first step towards resolving issues.

You mentioned in your interview that you had heard the issues but not the solutions. We found this statement disappointing because CanCERN has on numerous occasions tried to engage you in solution focused discussions regarding EQC. We would once again invite that opportunity and have reiterated the areas which have consistently been of most concern and the solutions that have come directly from the residents most impacted by EQC’s delivery of service.

Prioritising the vulnerable - the issue
Many elderly, sick and vulnerable people are still waiting to be identified and prioritised. EQC has recently developed a process to prioritise the vulnerable but it relies largely on community groups discovering and referring those they find in the community. EQC does action these referrals but it leaves too many gaps - the most vulnerable are the hardest to find and we are slowly uncovering 95 year olds and 101 year olds who have waited for over two years for EQC to make contact. While utilising the knowledge of the community can be seen as a positive move, people will be missed and EQCs preoccupation with capacity has overruled the priority to find every possible vulnerable person. EQC's needs have been put over and above the needs of the vulnerable. This is unacceptable and shows a lack of commitment to actually wanting to identify the most vulnerable.

The solution
EQC management were given advice via the EQC Customer Advocacy Group to promote the programme widely via the media and to use the MSD database which they have access to to proactively and directly contact all people to offer them information about the programme. EQC refused to take this advice saying capacity was an issue and they were cautious of opening it up and being taken advantage of.

Case Management - the issue
Access to personal information and accurate and timely communication has been the plague of an overwhelming number of residents. Ian Simpson, Bruce Emson and other senior managers have publicly stated that they need to do better and yet from a resident’s perspective, little has improved in this area.

Residents with the most complex situations can not get clarity on their position. This is extremely distressing as was witnessed on the Campbell Live programme and the added stress of having to repeat your story every time you manage to make contact with EQC is unacceptable and breaking the spirit of strong Cantabrians.

The solution
Based on EQC’s claims that a large number of claims have now been resolved, case management of those in the most complex repairs is now a valid option and priority should be given to meeting the communication needs of these people. Case management could be managed on a pod style basis organised into areas of complexity - cross lease, Port Hills, TC3 foundation repairs, TC3 others, most vulnerable land damage homes (increased risk of flood, increased risk of liquefaction), rockcote properties (who have been classified as leaky homes). If EQC does not have the systems in place to flag people into these categories, they have once again failed to implement a system to identify the most vulnerable and worst affected and it would highlight the need for questions to be asked regarding how they have estimated all claims will be resolved within certain timeframes.

Discrepancies in assessments - EQC and the private insurer - the issue
Discrepancies in assessment costs between insurers and EQC are not the result of apportionment as you stated in the Campbell Live interview. They are largely the result of inadequate assessments, EQC’s interpretation of the Act, repair methodologies which breach or subvert the Building Act and subversion of the Building Consents process.

Presently the monitoring, auditing and quality control processes of both EQC and Fletcher EQR are internal processes (other than Treasury and Auditor General reviews which focus more on financial accountability processes). Residents have little faith in the validity of these processes. Contractors and professionals have indicated they also have concerns which have been raised to no avail.

The solution
Adequate external monitoring and auditing processes need to be established immediately. Scale is a given. Speed is important. These things can not be at the expense of quality and resident assurance that their home is still a valuable asset. Only independent monitoring and auditing of the assessment and repair processes will give this assurance.

Management of EQC - the issue
Ian Simpson by his own admission has failed to address the longstanding issues which plague the community. The huge number of email responses to the Campbell Live interview which outline negative experiences are a vote of no confidence for the management of EQC.

Time and time again we have been told by managers at EQC that communicating with the people is a priority and that they were looking at ways to improve this. This began with Reid Stiven early in 2011, was reiterated by Bruce Emson on many occasions in 2012 ( as far as we are aware one of his roles in EQC was to develop a better communications process) and repeated again by Ian Simpson when we met him in the later half of 2012 and was further echoed by the board chair Michael Wintringham when we visited him in Wellington in December of last year. From the residents perspective the actions of EQC to fulfill this role are actions that meet the needs of EQC and do not meet the needs of the people. We have yet to have the ‘how’ articulated.

CanCERN met with EQC Board Chair, Michael Wintringham late 2012 and were told to wait and see what positive measures would be put in place to address our stated concerns. As of yet, we can identify no real improvements and believe the EQC Board has also failed to acknowledge and address the massive systemic failings of EQC. Letter to Michael Wintringham - 11.10.12

The solution
Many have suggested how things could be resolved to no avail. Two and a half years is too long for residents to wait for this service to improve. There has been no articulated plan to address the greatest concerns that is acceptable to the residents. Therefore we reassert our formal request that Ian Simpson is not best qualified to be the Chief Executive of EQC and should be replaced immediately.

In the spirit of solution focused outcomes, we would once again offer the opportunity to speak with you directly about these issues with the purpose of resolving the issues in a mutually beneficial way.

Yours sincerely

Leanne Curtis
CanCERN Relationships Manager
on behalf of the CanCERN Board and network

ENDS

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