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Message to Gerry: stop fighting with Cantabrians

Message to Gerry: stop fighting with Cantabrians

The Ombudsman’s damning report into EQC shows a department operating under a siege mentality because Gerry Brownlee simply refuses to make his department comply with the law, says Labour’s Earthquake Commission spokesperson Clayton Cosgrove.

“Gerry Brownlee blames earthquake victims for trying to access their information and using the OIA as a last resort. This is just like his dismissal of the Auditor General’s report issued a few weeks ago.

“He is sounding like a broken record and the problem is he is running out of people to blame.

“The Ombudsman has clearly found that this mess could have been avoided and it is one entirely of Mr Brownlee’s making because he refused to allow easy access to information.

“The large influx of OIA requests could have been avoided if there wasn’t such a risk-averse attitude. The report shows EQC was inefficient, staff were ill-equipped and always needed further referrals and permissions to deal with even simple requests.

“The Ombudsman has found that it will take just 4 – 5 hours to complete a file claim yet Cantabrians have to wait six months by filing an OIA. This is ridiculous.

“The solutions were clear. If someone at the call centre could have given Cantabrians a straightforward and correct answer to simple questions or the department could provide people with scopes of work the OIAs wouldn’t have arrived in such numbers.

“As the Ombudsman points out, at the end of the day people had nowhere else to go but use the OIA. She is correct when saying access to information is a right and not just ‘a nice to have’.

“For instance it allows people to check EQC has their information right and allows them to start the negotiation process with insurance companies, get their house rebuilt and get their lives back. This isn’t happening now.

“Mr Brownlee and EQC have fought Cantabrians every step of the way as they tried to get information. Now he has the temerity to turn around and blame them for taking the last option possible. That’s why so many people in the province are furious with the minister.

“The weakest defence Mr Brownlee has is that OIAs are holding up assessments and development. That is absolutely ridiculous. Assessors and builders don’t do OIAs – he has a team in EQC to do this.

“People want EQC to work for them in a timely and efficient fashion. Mr Brownlee must immediately put his CEO on notice and require him to implement the full set of recommendations from the Auditor General and the Ombudsman. He has to help Cantabrians move on with their lives,” says Clayton Cosgrove.


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