EQC puts off tricky land settlements

19:49, May 10 2013

The Earthquake Commission is delaying payment on 14,000 problem cases in its land settlement process and has no timeframe for when it will pay out on the damage.

The commission (EQC) is nearly halfway through land assessments - the third of its coverage areas after building and contents - with 30,000 of the 70,000 total completed.

Head of land settlement Zac Berry said about 40 per cent of the claims were for minimal damage - put at less than the $500 excess - but about 14,000 claims pose "significant challenges".

Many of them are for land that has multiple owners, such as the cross-lease titles that were popular in the 1970s, or retaining walls, a particular problem among the 7000 Port Hills land claims.

"One emerging issue in the Port Hills is that it's not always clear who owns damaged retaining walls," Berry said.

"In some cases, shared ownership [of land] also complicates the situation."

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EQC is sending letters to customers with complicated claims explaining why they are tricky and the "impact it may have on . . . settlement".

Further complicating matters are two new types of land damage EQC is considering: Increased flooding risk because land has sunk, and increased risk of liquefaction.

Geotechnical drilling was needed to measure these risks, Berry said, but despite that process finishing a month ago there was no time frame for settlement.

"Analysing the drill samples and data and arriving at a settlement figure for these claims is complex and will take some time. We will also be writing to these customers to advise them that their settlement will take longer because of the complicating factors."

The Press