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A lawyers’ field day at the taxpayer’s expense

Hon Gerry Brownlee
Minister for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery
Minister Responsible for the Earthquake Commission

9 June 2014 Media Statement

A lawyers’ field day at the taxpayer’s expense

Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee says every time Labour leader David Cunliffe opens his mouth about Christchurch he reveals how patchy his knowledge is of what’s going on in the city.

“Today’s commitment to drive outstanding insurance claims into the courts is extremely poorly considered,” Mr Brownlee says.

“Only a small fraction of outstanding claims are in dispute, and there are a range of appropriate channels to deal with complex or disputed insurance claims.

“The fact that the numbers of disputed claims is dropping quarter-on-quarter shows these channels are working.

“Court should be a last resort, and anyone familiar with insurance related cases taken in Christchurch will tell you legal action is far from a one-way street for claimants.

“Yet David Cunliffe has today advocated using taxpayers’ money to drive yet to be settled insurance claims into court, and scaling up court resources at huge cost to meet the influx.

“But there’s no suggestion the vast majority of claims won’t reach adequate resolution with insurers.

“Insurance settlements are ramping up and from here we expect outstanding claims to fall quite quickly.

“Some outstanding claims relate to multi-unit dwellings with multiple insurers, and insurers and EQC have been making good progress on protocols to progress them.

“Labour’s policy fails to recognise that both the High and District Courts in Christchurch have set up special procedures to fast track earthquake related court cases, and to prioritise cases with multiple parties.

“These arrangements are currently dealing with 270 cases, and can see even a complex High Court case to trial within 12 months – although most civil court cases settle rather than go to trial.

“So in essence a special division of the courts is already in place, and working well.

“Labour’s proposal would bung the whole show up with cases that don’t need to be there and cost everyone tens of millions of dollars in the process,” Mr Brownlee says.

Meanwhile, further embedding the impression David Cunliffe is poorly briefed on earthquake matters, he has also announced today Labour would make the Earthquake Commission (EQC) do what it already does.

“EQC already has a responsibility to pay compensation for land damage as a result of earthquakes, and it's doing that right across Christchurch.

“In respect of increased vulnerability to flooding, EQC stands ready to potentially discharge some of its financial responsibility by contributing to long term flood mitigation works being assessed by Christchurch City Council.

“For some claims this might make more sense than writing out a number of relatively small cheques to individuals who couldn't feasibly use that money on meaningful flood protection.

“But one way or another EQC will make payments for land damage, including increased vulnerability to flooding, in accordance with the EQC Act.

“Again, Labour seems terribly confused about responding to the Canterbury earthquakes.”

ENDS

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