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900 Chch households facing a fourth winter; OECD complaint

*****Joint Media Release*****

Canterbury Communities’ Earthquake Recovery Network (CanCERN)
Wider Earthquake Communities Action Network (WeCan)


In light of: Tuesday 10th December 2013 International Human Rights Day


CanCERN estimates 900 households facing a fourth winter in terrible conditions

WeCAN lodges formal complaint with O.E.C.D over Human Rights Violations


Background
The Government has just submitted to the United Nations in Geneva its Human Rights report. For quake hit Canterbury it included a commitment that human rights have been taken into account for health, transport, and rebuild decision making. CanCERN and WECAN responded by submitting to the International Community in Geneva a report showing a starkly different picture of reality in Christchurch.

Indications of significant housing and health human rights violations
CanCERN recently conducted a household doorknock of 774 homes in the hard hit Southshore and South Brighton communities. This was a bid to find families facing long repair and rebuild delays and who were still living in homes that need temporary work to improve their living conditions. From the survey response, CanCERN found that approximately 11% of households were still living in broken housing and were suffering poor health and stress in dealing with their insurance company.

CanCERN is also concerned that their doorknocking efforts so far are only reaching one third of hard hit communities but say the data gathered from those families is distressing enough. If we use this as a statistical sample it would indicate there would be approximately 900 families, across 15 suburbs, who are significantly struggling in their homes.

“What we are finding are families who have sewers that back up, walls and ceilings that leak when it rains, excessive mould growth and resulting ill health for the occupants of the home,” says CanCERN spokesperson, Leanne Curtis. “This damage along with a lack of certainty about when their homes will be fit to live in is taking its toll on the mental wellbeing of families. In a first world country where we have the tools and resources to provide temporary relief this is totally unacceptable. We need to locate the missing 900 families and ensure they do not face another winter in these terrible conditions,” says Leanne Curtis.

WeCan welcomes Government commitment to investigate Insurance Companies
WeCan recently launched a campaign for people struggling with EQC, EQR/Fletchers and Insurance Companies to lodge a formal complaint about their treatment through the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) complaints mechanism for multinationals. With CanCERN’s data in mind and its own collection of data from these households WeCan has lodged the human rights violations with the OECD on their behalf. By the end of the year, 100 complaints will have been formally given to the OECD. The government is now obliged to investigate these violations and have acknowledged they will investigate through the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) .

“WeCan welcomes the Government’s decision to investigate the alleged Human Rights violations occurring in Canterbury from the actions of EQC, Insurance Companies, and Fletchers,” states Mike Coleman, spokesperson for WeCan. “The formal complaints we are lodging show people are being hospitalised because of stress; with reports of forced mortgagee sales, others living in homes still with plastic on their outsides walls, whilst some are living in garages or with leaking roofs. We have elderly living in cramped lounges because the rest of the house is uninhabitable; we have reports of children getting asthma and other illnesses. We encourage anyone else struggling with Insurance Companies, EQC, and Fletchers to come forward and lodge a complaint –with full confidentiality on WeCan website http://www.wecan-nz.com “ says Coleman.


International Reaction in Geneva
During the recent review of NZ’s Human Rights report, CanCERN and WeCan, jointly met and shared this information with international diplomats in Geneva. Steve Patterson, who is in Geneva representing CanCERN and WeCan, said that diplomats were “shocked” to hear that legal analysis of complaints received and doorknocking data indicating up to 11% of high damage impact suburbs are experiencing violations of international human rights law in respect to housing and health. They agreed, “no one should have to live through a 4th winter like this.”

“It’s distressing that we have to go to the international community to get the terrible living conditions that some people in Christchurch are dealing with recognised,” said Patterson, “but perhaps that just shows that the commitment of the community organisations to the people of Canterbury is stronger than the commitment of our own Government. Unfortunately, New Zealand is one of the few countries in the world which does not have legal protection for housing and health rights – and we urgently need it.”

CanCERN and WECAN Challenge to the Government
This Human Rights day, CanCERN and WECAN jointly calls on the Government to:
• Use all available resources, to ensure the estimated 900 households, still living in broken homes and suffering negative health, will not have to endure a 4th winter in these unacceptable conditions.
• Ensure all vulnerable homes and people are given properly managed housing solutions and full support in dealing with their insurance companies.
• Direct that State and non-state owned enterprises, desist from commercial and operational practices which cause or exacerbate human rights violations.


ENDS


Background Information


New Zealand’s 2014 Universal Periodic review to determine human rights in a country

Christchurch after the earthquakes: A systemic Human Rights problem


Background – Earthquakes and the Government Response
Since New Zealand’s last UPR review, 4 major earthquakes, which began 4 September 2010, along with an estimated 13,000 aftershocks, have had a devastating impact on the people of Canterbury region, including New Zealand’s second largest city, Christchurch. The earthquake resulted in 185 deaths and injured 11,432, with total estimated rebuilding costs equivalent to 20% of New Zealand’s GDP. The Government reports that it is committed to ensuring any human rights are accounted for in its decision making; that it has invested considerable resources in providing essential infrastructure for health and transport, and a significant housing repair and rebuild programme.


The Reality – Significant Right to Health and Housing Violations reported
Following a household survey conducted by a Christchurch NGO CanCERN, of 774 homes during the recent winter period (May – August), the following Human Rights violations were documented by WeCAN;

ViolationIncidenceExamples reported
Right to adequate health
ICESCR art 12(1)
10%Children getting asthma, sewage spills, no running toilet, exposed toxic asbestos, damp and toxic mould, stress from dealing with insurance companies, rodent infestation, and critical illnesses.
Right to adequate housing
ICESCR art 11(1)
11%Outside walls covered in plastic, leaking roofs, Impossible to heat in winter (snow), drafts, vibrating house, house floods, rotten floors, living in garages, and no emergency accommodation available.
Right to adequate food & clean water ICESCR art 11(1)0.7%No cooking facilities when it rains – Kitchen electrocution risk,
Drinking water contaminated with waste water.

Extrapolation of the data across all high damage impact suburbs, indicates on a city wide basis that;
• 1024 people are living in inadequate housing.
• 869 people are suffering poor health from living in broken homes / stress of dealing with Insurance.
• 68 people are not having access to adequate food or clean water.
The Reality - Disadvantaged Groups
The State is required to extend special protective measures to vulnerable groups within society and ensure a degree of priority consideration. Following community surveys and formal complaints, there are numerous vulnerable people still living in broken homes, suffering physical health issues, risk of suicide. Vulnerable include;
• Disabled- in violation of The Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) - NZ ratified 2008
• Elderly - in violation of The International Covenant on Civil Political Rights (ICCPR), and The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) -NZ ratified both 1978
• Children – in violation of The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) - NZ ratified 1993


The Reality – State (and non-state) Insurance Companies involved in Human Rights Violations
Christchurch NGO WECAN, has lodged 100 complaints with the OECD (an international complaint mechanism for multinational enterprises violating human rights). The complaints allege Insurance companies, in particular the Government owned insurer EQC, have caused or exacerbated people’s physical and mental health, by not fulfilling insurance contracts, in de facto, forcing them to remain living in a broken home.

The Reality – For many no Progressive Realisation
Whilst Government assistance has targeted geographical areas, for certain worst damage /low socio economic areas there has been no improvement: Instead a significant regression since the 2nd major earthquake of 2011. For many this meant a 3rd winter in a broken home, in a sub alpine climate, with no prospect in sight for a repair/rebuild, fulfilment of their insurance contract, and with consequential negative physical and mental health outcomes.


Questions; what specific and concrete steps will the Government take to;
• Use all available resources, to ensure the est. 900 families still living in broken homes and suffering negative health, will not have to endure a 4th winter in a broken home.
• Ensure all vulnerable people are provided with immediate, acceptable, housing solutions and support.
• Direct that State and non-state owned enterprises, desist from commercial and operational practices, which cause or exacerbate human rights violations.

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