EQC battle felt like the 'twilight zone'

GEORGINA STYLIANOU
Last updated 05:00 04/09/2014
Jocelyn Yates
DEAN KOZANIC/Fairfax NZ

ONE OF MANY: Kaiapoi resident Jocelyn Yates is still unpacking in her new home and battling EQC issues four years after the September 2010 earthquake.

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Jocelyn Yates is defeated.

Some days, she stays at home and cries. Other days, she musters up the energy to unpack some of her belongings for the fourth time since the September 4, 2010, earthquake.

Four years on, Yates is still battling with the Earthquake Commission (EQC), which has only recently admitted that the $5.51 land claim payment she received last year was an error.

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"You never think you could end up in a situation like this," she said.

"I've got a new mortgage I didn't want, a section that looks unlikely to sell... and now I'm on the benefit."

Yates worked at a dementia care centre but had to quit because she did not "cope too well with things any more".

The Kaiapoi grandmother lost her 16-year-old Fuller St home in the September 2010 quake. A large crack through the property caused the "garage to break off, the lounge to snap off" and silt caused by liquefaction flooded the house.

Yates did not want to leave the four-bedroom brick home she and her former husband built but the house was uninhabitable. It was demolished shortly after the earthquakes because it was deemed dangerous.

She spent three months with her sister in Christchurch before shifting into a friend's granny flat, where she experienced the effects of severe liquefaction in the February 2011 and June 2011 quakes.

The 56-year-old was the first person to move into Kaiapoi's temporary housing village - a complex its residents soon dubbed the "holiday camp", Yates said.

"But after a while, it became known as the prison camp."

Southern Response agreed to a rebuild on her technical category-3 section but Yates decided against it, fearing the process would be too difficult. It was agreed her insurer would pay her the estimated rebuild value so she could buy a new house.

She hoped to sell the Fuller St section and use the money to pay off her mortgage. However, in May last year she received a letter from EQC saying the damage to her land had been assessed and she was receiving a $5.51 payout to remediate the section. Case closed.

"I felt like I was in a twilight zone, like I was talking but nobody was listening and I'd often wonder if I was speaking a different language." It took 15 months, several interventions from Labour MP Clayton Cosgrove, including a letter to Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee, sessions with the Residential Advisory Service, and countless phone calls and tears. It was eventually revealed that EQC assessors had taken an 8-metre footprint around an old playhouse in the garden, not the actual house, to calculate her $5 payment. The section was worth $145,000 before the quakes but had since been valued at $100,000.

Last month, she finally received a letter from EQC that said her section would be reassessed.

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"I didn't even feel that relieved... I just feel blank and numb most of the time."

Yates struggles to sleep and her Cass St home shakes whenever a truck goes past. She questions whether she did the right thing buying the two-bedroom flat last year. Her five grandchildren have been her saving grace.

EQC's head of land settlement, Keith Land, said Yates' property had been initially assessed for observable land damage only and settlement had been made without any consideration of increased liquefaction vulnerability.

"EQC acknowledges that there has been some human error in this case, with the initial land settlement made prematurely."

REMEMBERING FOUR YEARS ON

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Disaster repairs just 10pc complete

EQC's cash reserves run close to wind

Is a new life emerging in Christchurch?

Canterbury quake babies thriving

- The Press

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