Insurance aftershock for potter

16:00, Jan 23 2014
Paul Melser's pottery showroom
SHATTERING EXPERIENCE: Carterton potter Paul Melser's pottery showroom after Monday's 6.2 magnitude earthquake destroyed $8000 worth of his stock.

A potter who found $8000 worth of stock smashed after Monday's quake has been told his insurance company will cover only about 15 per cent of the loss.

Paul Melser, who has supplied dishes to Wellington restaurants Floriditas, Matterhorn and Gypsy Kitchen, found about one-fifth of his stock, conservatively valued at $8000, in smithereens on his showroom floor after Monday's quake.

But when he phoned insurer State's claims assessment line, he was told it could compensate him only for "direct input costs" - in his case clay, gas for firing, and glaze - but nothing for his labour, artistic ability and 50 years' continuous professional experience making domestic ware.

Paul Melser
PLATE TECTONICS: Paul Melser in his Carterton pottery studio, where he will have to spend long hours replacing the dishes, plates and bowls smashed in Monday's quake.

"It's a huge anomaly that, when someone buys my pot and it breaks, they get reimbursed for my labour, whereas I don't. Any creative industry with a big labour input is hugely disadvantaged as far as making a claim goes."

Melser, who works from his home in Norfolk Rd, west of Carterton, estimated his "direct inputs" at about 15 per cent of the price paid by the buyer, meaning 85 per cent of his quake losses could not be recovered.

He said the quake was the most dramatic of many he had felt in the 39 years he has lived and worked in Norfolk Rd. None of the others caused any damage.


"I went straight to the showroom, it was just a whole lot of bloody shattered pots. It was pretty incredible."

Melser, 67, started making domestic ware when he was 10 and has done so professionally since he was 19. As well as the restaurants, he supplies the Vessel store in Wellington and takes commissions from firms such as Design Works in Auckland.

He said the loss was essentially of $8000 worth of his time, but because he enjoyed potting he was not too upset - especially because he would now save on premiums.

"Effectively that insurance policy was completely useless, and I had been paying for it for years and years without ever really confronting that fact . . . it's just an impossible situation for the person who makes the work."

He said he would easily have paid for the $8000 in insurance premiums to State during more than 30 years, during which he had made no significant claims.

A spokeswoman for State said she could not discuss Melser's claim for privacy reasons, but that customers unhappy with an assessment could ask for their file to be reviewed.

If they were still not satisfied they could write to the insurance ombudsman, she said.

Melser has not lodged a claim with the Earthquake Commission (EQC), as it covers residential property rather than businesses.

At midday yesterday, EQC had received 1363 claims relating to Monday's quake, centred near Eketahuna. Most were from Palmerston North and Manawatu, Tararua, Masterton and Horowhenua, with 73 claims in Kapiti, and 48 in Wellington city. There were 25 in the Carterton district.

The last day for filing a claim is April 22.

The Dominion Post