'Outstanding' EQC boss Ian Simpson quits

Earthquake Commission chief executive Ian Simpson is leaving to become the chief executive of GNS Science.

Earthquake Commission chief executive Ian Simpson is leaving to become the chief executive of GNS Science.

Outgoing EQC chief executive Ian Simpson would admit some things "could have been done better" during his tenure, his boss says.

Earthquake Commission (EQC) chairman Sir Maarten Wevers is standing by Simpson, though, declaring his leadership through the response to the 2010 and 2011 Canterbury earthquakes "outstanding".

Simpson, who was paid more than $450,000 a year, will leave the organisation at the end of the year to take a job as chief executive of GNS Science. 

Gerry Brownlee and Ian Simpson and an earthquake recovery forum in 2013. Brownlee says Simpson has faced "considerable, ...

Gerry Brownlee and Ian Simpson and an earthquake recovery forum in 2013. Brownlee says Simpson has faced "considerable, but equally undue, criticism".

EQC has been dogged by criticism of its performance since the earthquakes. Problems included shoddy home repairs, claim delays, expensive litigation, repair standards, nepotism allegations and the vulnerable and elderly still waiting on repairs despite promises to prioritise them. 

Quake-hit Christchurch homeowners face wait for justice
EQC's legal bill continues to rise
$68 million spent on travel
PR budget 'through the roof'
Flight bill soaring for Canty quake bureaucrats
Quake issues rewrite laws
EQC boss Ian Simpson's $70,000 boost

Wevers said Simpson – who is overseas and cannot be reached – deserved credit for guiding EQC through an unprecedented disaster response. 

Shoddy repairs have plagued EQC's Canterbury home repair programme. Here, multiple layers of plastic packing were among ...

Shoddy repairs have plagued EQC's Canterbury home repair programme. Here, multiple layers of plastic packing were among the problems identified with a substandard jack and pack at a St Albans, Christchurch property.

"It wasn't really what he signed up for ... He came in with 22 people [in what] was really a funds investment organisation, but he's stuck the path."


Some of the media criticism of EQC and Simpson had been "very unfair", Wevers said. 

Dale Ogilvie, left, gives Ian Simpson some stories from the people hurting in east Christchurch outside the Earthquake ...

Dale Ogilvie, left, gives Ian Simpson some stories from the people hurting in east Christchurch outside the Earthquake Commission offices in 2012.

"We certainly had a lot of challenges. Ian would, just like the rest of the board, admit quite freely that things could have been done better. But we've had an enormous focus on improvement as we go.

Ad Feedback

"I'm not denying the criticism for a moment. Some of the things we've dropped the ball. We had a significant privacy breach because our systems weren't robust enough. We [Fletcher EQR] have recruited contractors who've proved not to be up to scratch. Of course there have been issues. We've had challenges with information flows and files going to the wrong people."

Under Simpson's stewardship, EQC has closed almost all home and contents claims for earthquake damage. Both have completion rates of more than 99 per cent. Eighty-four per cent of land claims are closed. Simpson could take credit for that, Wevers said.

"Reinsurance has been absolutely essential to EQC's ability to fund the repair programme.

"His ability to retain the confidence of the international reinsurers, which he's negotiated personally to ensure the ongoing and affordable supply of reinsurance, to keep the whole ship afloat has been fantastic."


Labour Canterbury spokeswoman Megan Woods said many people had been "incredibly frustrated by the mess at EQC over the last few years".

"Ultimately the minister needs to take responsibility for what has happened. We wish Ian Simpson well with his new career.

"With a new chief executive coming on board it would be timely for the minister to launch an independent inquiry into EQC."


Under Simpson's leadership, the number of EQC staff grew from 22 before the September 4, 2010 to 1275 by mid-2011. As of August this year, the organisation had 868 staff.

The Fletcher EQR-managed Canterbury home repair programme was set up in response to the thousands of homes needing earthquake repairs.

Simpson announced in August this year that EQC would cut 242 jobs in Christchurch because it was "approaching the final point" of its Canterbury earthquake work.

By the end of 2016, EQC will have cash settled 99,000 residential claims and managed 67,900 repairs.


- EQC contractors botched thousands of home earthquake repairs. In January 2016, EQC said it had about 5,500 homes to fix again. That figure has climbed since. EQC was a third through fixing the botched repairs by May this year.

- Foundation repairs, including "jack and packs", came under particular scrutiny. The Government checked repairs on 14 houses in 2014 and found poor workmanship as well as quality and building code compliance issues in 13 of them, sparking a broader Ministry of Business and Employment (MBIE) investigation into earthquake repairs.

- In August 2015, EQC and its project manager, Fletcher EQR, said it would recheck and where necessary fix unconsented repairs after an MBIE survey of 90 unconsented structural repairs, most of them managed by EQC, found 32 were non-compliant with the Building Code. Critics called the survey a "snow job", because homeowners who had complained about their repairs were excluded. 

- Many elderly and vulnerable have waited years for home repairs, despite being deemed a high priority by EQC. In 2014, then-Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee asked for a "please explain", but today nearly 200 cases considered vulnerable have not been resolved.

- In 2011, EQC faced allegations of nepotism. It was revealed that the sons and daughters of some senior EQC staff had been hired as assessors and paid between $60 and $110 an hour. They included Zac Stiven, son of then-EQC Canterbury events manager Reid Stiven, who was employed as an assessor when he was 18 or 19. The same year EQC hired staff without interviews, raising more questions about its recruitment process.

- EQC painted some media as the enemy. At a 2012 meeting, EQC staff in Christchurch were shown a presentation that accused some of the media of "dirty tactics" and relying on "rumours" to write negative stories about EQC. It featured photos of Press journalists they called unprofessional, schizophrenic and rogue.

- In August 2012, disgruntled technical category 3 residents picketed the Christchurch EQC and insurer IAG offices saying their homes were a health risk and asking for the organisations to "fix the worst first". The protests have continued. In February this year, hundreds protested in Cathedral Square about their outstanding EQC and insurance claims.

- There was the 2013 privacy breach, where EQC accidentally released the private information of 83,000 claimants.

- EQC has spent millions on litigation. By November last year, more than 270 legal cases had been brought against EQC since the Canterbury earthquakes. In April, EQC settled with the EQC Action Group, confirming its legal obligation to repair damaged homes to a 'when new' rather than pre-earthquake condition. Claimants said EQC had "admitted they were wrong", but EQC said the declaration reaffirmed its position.


EQC Minister Gerry Brownlee said Simpson "should be commended for his leadership during unprecedented times in the nation's history".

"He has superintended one of the biggest insurance company responses to any natural disaster anywhere in the world.

"I am grateful to him for the dedication and commitment he has shown over the past six years, despite considerable, but equally undue, criticism.

"From my perspective, Ian should be very proud of, and congratulated for, his leadership through extraordinary – and I hope never-to-be-repeated – times in New Zealand."

Wevers said the search for a replacement EQC chief executive would begin shortly.




 - Stuff


Ad Feedback
special offers

Snow expected to ease

Tekapo was temporarily cut off by snow on Thursday.

Conditions look set to improve down south, but thunderstorms threaten the North Island and gales hit the capital.

Rental homes risky for kids

Research from Growing Up in New Zealand's Now We Are Four report showed private rentals had significantly fewer home ...

Children living in rentals are exposed to greater safety risks than those whose families own a home, study shows.

Murder in a tight-knit town video

Natanya Campbell and her mum Wendy Campbell Rodgers were killed when they were making a property inspection in Northland.

It was meant to be a routine work visit, but soon after a flurry of gunshots rang out and two women were left dead.

Family wants victims' bodies home video

The victims of Northland's double fatal shooting were mother and daughter Wendy and Natanya Campbell.

Whanau of two women shot dead in Northland "wearing the clothes of mourning" while they wait for their bodies to be returned.


The disappearing price of premium

2032016 News Photo: Marion van Dijk/Fairfax NZ

Petrol price sign at BP2go Haven Road.

Petrol stations don't show premium fuel prices anymore and it allows gouging, AA says.

Street closed by slip

The road will be closed overnight between the Devon St/Essex St intersection, and the intersection of Landcross St and ...

A section of street in Aro Valley has been cordoned off and a house evacuated after a slip has come down.

Wind hits Wellington flights

Wellington's wind is notorious for giving passengers landing in the city a bumpy landing. (File photo)

Flights have been disrupted in the capital, and some have been diverted.

Winter's bite is back video

Cold Antarctic air is behind the front bringing snow to Tekapo and other parts of the South Island.

Wellington in the firing line with gale-force southerlies on the way.


The purrfect crime

A cheeky cat burglar has been caught in Blenheim

A furry, late night prowler stealing clothes from an unsuspecting resident has been caught on tape.

Project seeks land

The Hurunui River in North Canterbury.

"It gives them a big baseball bat and what have I got?" asks one worried farmer.

Flooded residents 'angry'

Southshore Residents Association chairman Bill Simpson says what happened in Southshore during last weekend's flooding ...

Nearly 350 Southshore residents express "disappointment at the late and inadequate response" to flood risk in their suburb.

Rare kotuku shot

An X-ray shows pellets lodged in the kotuku's body.

There are only 100 left but someone has shot a kotuku. Now the hunt is on for the perpetrator.


Que back being a typical Kiwi kid

Que Langdon is settling back into normal activities after sailing with her father to Australia from Kawhia.

After spending 27 days sailing to Oz with her father, life is back to normal for Que Langdon.

Migrants grow dope

Professionally installed heat lamps and hydroponic equipment were set up in various rooms, including bedrooms, of the ...

Illegal immigrant ring caught growing commercial amounts of cannabis in three rental houses.

Cops swoop on school

Police look for evidence at the back gate of Knighton Normal School.

Officers patrolling grounds after incident at primary school in Hamilton East.

Waikato support for plastic bag levy

90 per cent of mayors support a compulsory levy on plastic bags.

Plastic bag levy will see the cost of groceries go up.


Firewood supplies running out

A roaring fire maybe a thing of the past unless you've stocked up as supplies of firewood  run out in Taranaki with ...

Stock up in summer to avoid being left out in the cold.

A 'hybrid event' flood video

Traffic is reduced to one lane just south of Inglewood.

The amount of rain to fall "far exceeded" standards for severe heavy rain warnings.

Drugs and cash seized

Methamphetamine and cash were recovered when police raided four houses in North Taranaki on Thursday morning. (file photo)

Methamphetamine, cash and vehicles seized in a series of raids in Taranaki this morning.

Woman clung to moving car

Members of the public witnessed one woman's horror as her partner tried to push her out of a moving car on a state ...

Her partner tried to push her out as they drove on the highway. When they stopped, she fled and hid under a truck.


A garden of thoughts

Carly Thomas and her eldest daughter Ava Thomas wander through their large garden.

Reporter Carly Thomas gets philosophical about her crazy garden.

Game could move

Access to upper levels of the Central Energy Trust Arena grandstand has been stopped while fire safety work is carried out.

Fire risk closes upper levels of Central Energy Trust Arena grandstand.

Eating spot hits hard times

Bethany's restaurant, on The Square, has fallen into liquidation.

The reputable restaurant was born out of love and tragedy.

Council's black-list folly

David Clapperton introduced an abhorrent email-interception practice at Horowhenua District Council.

OPINION: Horowhenua boss' email-interception practice is abhorrent.


Log truck overturns

A logging truck overturned at Appleby near Nelson.

Logging truck crash closes road near Nelson.

Battle in the skies

Passengers disembark the first Jetstar flight from Wellington to Nelson. (File photo)

Regional airline boss says "it's a race to the bottom, and we're caught up in it".

Chocolate cake heaven

Phil Lash of Chocolate Velvet.

Chocolate Velvet specialises in happiness; glorious cake happiness.

Crime spree arrest

One man has been arrested as police continue to search for two others following a number of crimes across Nelson last ...

Police have made an arrest in relation to several incidents last weekend.


Cloud of fatal crash still hangs

Lara Glover, 16, died in the car crash on February 19.

Eight teenagers were in the car, but Jayne Glover says the whole region felt the crash that killed her daughter.

Nurses to move to hub

The district nurses will have a similar amount of storage space at the health hub, the review panel says.

Where they need more staff, new technology and better communication, review finds.

No flying fish yet for Blenheim

The runway at Marlborough Airport, which NZ King Salmon wants to see extended. (File photo)

Salmon farmed in the Marlborough Sounds can't be flown out of the region because the local runway's too short.

Ice skating, minus the cold

One of Ice Skate Tour's artificial ice rinks will be set up in central Blenheim for four days in December.

It looks like ice, skates like ice, but a rink bound for Blenheim is definitely not ice.

South Canterbury

Rugby player jailed

Kolinio Yabia Tamanitoakula was jailed for three years, four months and two weeks.

His distressed victim was covered in mud when she ran in front of a car to get help.

Change possible - Falloon

National Party candidate Andrew Falloon met ECan representatives on Thursday, following heated public debate about the ...

Retrofitting plan still on the table, National Party candidate suggests.

Roads reopen, rain continues video

Contractors clear snow from the road at Tekapo on Thursday morning.

Roads to Tekapo reopen as schools send  students home early to avoid flooding.

Boy seriously injured in Timaru

A 12-year-old Westmount School - South Campus Timaru pupil was taken to Timaru Hospital on Thursday with serious ...

Twelve-year-old taken to Timaru Hospital with serious injuries following incident in CBD.


Invercargill i-Site to trial pilot to lure migrants

Venture Southland general manager of tourism, events and community Bobbi Brown and Invercargill i-Site supervisor ...

The Invercargill i-Site has been selected by the Ministry of Business, Information and Employment to run a pilot looking to entice visitors to the region to migrate.

The 9-day garage sale

A vinyl record collection does not reflect the tastes of the current owner, Smith says.

Riversdale hoarder's "rationalisation" leads to nine-day garage sale.

Fishermen demand answers

CRA8 Lobster Industry Association chief executive Malcolm Lawson said consultation on the regulation changes have been ...

Southern fishermen want Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy to front up over concerns regarding new commercial fishing regulations.

Tougher biosecurity wanted

Ministry for Primary Industries Aquaculture analyst Finn Sumner speaks to the audience at an Invercargill public meeting ...

Southlanders have made it known to MPI staff they want to see tougher biosecurity standards for the marine aquaculture industry.

Ad Feedback