EQC faces criticism at meeting
The worst off people in the quake-struck Ward community should be helped first, was the message to the Earthquake Commission last night.
About 80 people attended a meeting called by EQC and the Marlborough District Council in Ward last night to learn about help available to fix quake damage and progress being made.
One couple told EQC customer services general manager Bruce Emson they had not heard from the EQC since being instructed their house was dangerous and they had to leave.
Others spoke of a family with three children in a house with no roof, who had not yet been visited by the EQC.
Grassmere farmer Doug Avery said he knew of someone whose cracked mantelpiece had been fixed while others whose houses were in a terrible state had not been seen by anyone from EQC.
People had tried ringing and emailing EQC to let them know about people needing urgent assessments but nothing had happened.
Mr Emson said 9000 claims worth about $50 million had come in as a result of the Marlborough earthquakes during the past two months, including 57 that day, so prioritising visits was difficult.
However, he made a pledge to establish a vulnerable response phoneline and told people to contact him directly via email.
A Ward resident who moved from Christchurch after the quakes and was living through the experience for a second time warned people to be wary of EQC cash settlements for quake damage.
"If damage at your house is assessed for $50,000 and a builder comes along and finds another $30,000 of damage he says is quake-related, I can see that as extraordinarily problematic."
Mr Emson said EQC would not manage repairs for people as happened in Canterbury.
"Once people have a cheque to cover repairs, they should bank it and seek quotes.
"If you have contractors who are going to rort, it I can't stop that, your community will have to," he said.
People needing urgent repairs must pay for these themselves then they would be reimbursed as part of their settlement, he said.
Agencies including Work and Income New Zealand could help cover this urgent work.
Mr Emson said EQC accounts never closed and the Crown guaranteed people could get what they were entitled to.
"The door is always open," Mr Emson said.
"I'll put that in writing if you wish," he said.
- The Marlborough Express