Reviews by EQC spark complaints

Last updated 05:00 22/09/2012

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Christchurch earthquake

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Earthquake Commission-hired experts looking at disputed claims in Christchurch have generated a swath of complaints, including to the Institution of Professional Engineers New Zealand (Ipenz).

Most of the complaints relate to one expert and allege incorrect assessments judging damage to be pre-existing. The experts' reports are often inconsistent with previous reports on the damage.

The Press has spoken to many complainants but only one was prepared to be named because of fear of retribution from the Earthquake Commission (EQC).

Many cases are older homes that were not in perfect condition before the earthquakes but appear to be in a much worse state afterwards.

Port Hills Labour MP Ruth Dyson told The Press she had started receiving a "massive wave" of complaints about reassessments by the EQC about two months ago.

She had formally notified the commission, which told her a review team was revisiting some of the cases. Dyson's office had documented at least five cases where homeowners had complained about the same expert.

An Ipenz complaints research officer was in Christchurch yesterday to prepare a report on at least one case involving an engineer.

The institute's investigation committee will decide whether the complaint should proceed. It did not elaborate.

The EQC said it knew of three complaints lodged with the institute, one of which had been dismissed.

EQC customer services general manager Bruce Emson said he had full confidence in the expert singled out by many complainants and the person would continue to be used by the commission. He would not say how many complaints had been made about the expert.

Many of the claims their experts were asked to assess were "already doubtful", which meant there was a "strong inherent possibility that his findings will not go down well with the customer", he said.

Families who have laid complaints told The Press they received one-page reports based on what they viewed as cursory inspections. That left them in dispute with the EQC because the expert had been regarded as the final word.

The complaints included these documented cases:

Niven Shuker, 44, and Andrea Laws, 38, say an expert spent 22 minutes assessing their home this year before deciding the cracks in their foundations were pre-existing damage. His report went against the 11 prior inspections, including two engineers' assessments. All reports except that of the EQC expert said the foundations and piles were structurally damaged by earthquakes.

Another homeowner, who has laid a complaint with Ipenz, said their expert claimed damage to her house was pre-existing, which contradicted two other engineers and a senior builder. She said photographs proved the quake caused the damage but the expert and the EQC had refused to look at them.

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A Diamond Harbour resident said her expert had written off the damage to her house because "it hadn't been built properly". She believes the expert looked for excuses not to repair the house.

If you believe an EQC expert has misjudged damage to your home in a reassessment contact Olivia Carville or Martin van Beynen at

- The Press

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