Wintringham calls for raft of EQC changes

MARC GREENHILL
Last updated 05:00 13/07/2013

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Insurance companies should take the lead on future earthquake claims, the EQC's outgoing chairman says.

Michael Wintringham, who retires next month after nine years on the board, yesterday told business leaders in Christchurch that a raft of changes should be considered during the review of the commission's role.

These included increasing the EQC's $100,000 cap, defining what constitutes a claims event and reducing the necessity for customer contact.

The existing model where the EQC was the first port of call for quake claims should be reversed, he said.

"Would not a sensible arrangement be for the customer to make the claim to their insurer, with whom they have the primary contact, and then for that insurer to make the preliminary assessment about whether to pass that file over to the Earthquake Commission or to deal with the matter itself?"

Issues such as apportionment, where a legal challenge ruled damage should be spread across multiple events, should have been defined by politicians before the Canterbury quakes, Wintringham said.

"My view is that there is a role for the elected representatives of this country to be making those decisions and incorporating them into legislation, rather than having the courts making those decisions for us in an environment where distressed people are waiting for resolution."

He also backed increasing the EQC cap.

"That by itself would remove a lot of the interface between ourselves and private insurers because we would be taking primary responsibility for a much greater percentage of the damage.

"I think that would sweep away many of the current issues which have been the cause of frustration and in some cases delays."

Wintringham expected the EQC would be retained once its work in Canterbury was done.

"In my view, it would be impossible for the private insurance market to pick up the responsibilities the Earthquake Commission has and to provide insurance with the same degree of cover at an affordable price," he said.

Insurance Council of New Zealand chief executive Tim Grafton yesterday backed Wintringham's views.

"It makes a lot of sense for insurers to be the handler of claims to avoid a lot of duplication and for people to deal with their insurer directly, as that is where the relationship lies," he said.

An agreed "fee-for-service" basis with clear guidelines around the expectations placed on insurers would be needed if that change was made, Grafton said.

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