EQC Minister Woods calls for immediate steps to resolve outstanding claims
By Rebecca Howard
June 6 (BusinessDesk) - Earthquake Commission Minister Megan Woods has called on the EQC to take immediate steps to speed up the resolution of outstanding claims relating to the Canterbury earthquakes after a report outlined the need for a wide range of reforms.
“The report reveals sizeable issues with staffing levels, data quality, record keeping and organisational culture and structure that are holding back resolution of claims," said Woods. The report was prepared by Christine Stevenson, acting chief executive of New Zealand Customs.
According to the report, most claims have been settled, but as at Feb. 28, approximately 2,600 claims with unresolved issues remain open with EQC. There are a number of additional claims which sit with private insurers. It noted that around 770,000 individual residential building, land, and contents claims were opened, for damage to around 168,000 residential buildings after the 2010 and 2011 Canterbury earthquakes.
The recommendations fall into several broad categories: those EQC will have the responsibility for implementing, those Treasury and MBIE need to work with EQC on, and those that are more future-facing and need a whole-of-system approach, said Woods.
In the short-term she has called on interim board chair Annette King to hire more staff to reduce the caseloads for case managers, to set up a Claimant Reference Group and to make any claimants’ EQC file available to them on request. She also called on her to ensure a team of experienced EQC staff pull out all of the physical claims files relating to the remaining claims, and have the team sort, review, confirm and capture the key data to ensure it is correct and increase government monitoring to improve accountability.
Woods said there are also broader recommendations including looking to allow EQC more flexibility to make cash settlements above the EQC cap, which would then be recovered from the private insurers.
“Another recommendation we are beginning work to implement will be to significantly scale up the Residential Advisory Service which provides independent help to claimants. This service has helped resolve over 4000 outstanding claims and we want to make it even better," she said.