Wealthy 'not paying enough'

ALAN WOOD
Last updated 05:00 15/11/2012

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Rich people with expensive properties are not paying their fair share for Earthquake Commission land cover, says EQC chairman Michael Wintringham.

There needs to be more "social equity" around the way that land is covered because the existing system favours those with more expensive homes, he adds.

Wintringham, speaking to a grouping of Christchurch business people yesterday said he had pushed for a long time for a review of EQC's cover for land.

Both EQC's cover for residences and contents had been capped at a dollar value. Since the early 1990s EQC has been responsible for the first $100,000 of property damage and the first $20,000 of contents in natural disasters.

However, EQC's cover for land was done on a square metre basis and by value.

This gave a natural advantage to those paying the yearly EQC fee who lived in more expensive homes, because they paid relatively less for the cover, Wintringham said.

"There is not a premium charged for our land cover. The premium is a percentage of the residential property cover, which in effect means that those who are fortunate to have a highly expensive section with a sea view get a greater degree of cover than those who live in more modest properties.

"So there's a social equity issue there, about who is bearing the risk and who is bearing the benefit. There's a fundamental question in there . . . I'm pretty keen that's resolved."

His comments came yesterday while talking about the EQC's role in Canterbury, and a Government-led review of the Earthquake Commission Act 1993 looking at EQC cover and how much it costs.

The Government's "first impressions" of the review are expected to be made public in 2013.

EQC chief executive Ian Simpson said there had been a lot of concern about the larger claims being double-handled by EQC and the insurers, and work had to be done in reviewing the act to avoid that happening again.

"That's [created] a lot of distress and a lot of noise in terms of how that's working and not working. So what practically can we do next time to make sure that's much clearer, much easier, much more practical."

EQC wanted to be able work better with customers, and remove some of the "friction" between different players involved in the quakes.

Wintringham said with the existing system EQC provided the first $100,000 of cover, potentially for multiple events.

But there could be a more collaborative approach, he suggested. "What say we went dollar for dollar with the private insurers, dollar for dollar up to $300,000, we pick up $150,000 they pick up $150,000. There's a complete alignment of incentives."

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There could be "a whole lot of other wrinkles" attached to any such a change to the system, he acknowledged.

"[But] we are keen to ensure that the lessons learned from Canterbury which have caused either unnecessary churn or unnecessary delay or unnecessary distress, are picked up and incorporated and arrangements are put in place."

- © Fairfax NZ News

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