Insurance Council asks Kaikoura District Council to pull video from its Facebook page
JAMIE SMALL AND PIPPA BROWN
The Kaikoura District Council pulled a video from its Facebook page this week after a complaint from the Insurance Council New Zealand (ICNZ).
The video documented a public meeting on March 23 by advocacy group EQC Fix at the Kaikoura Memorial Hall, advising residents on how to deal with earthquake insurance claims.
Three members of EQC Fix – facilitator Mel Bourke, lawyer and Labour candidate Duncan Webb, and accountant Cameron Preston – spoke at the meeting alongside lawyer Lisa Taylor and insurance advisor Dean Lester.
The council uploaded the video to its Kaikoura Civil Defence Facebook page, but removed it on March 27 after a complaint from ICNZ.
* Most Kaikoura earthquake insurance claims should be settled before Christmas
* Kaikoura earthquakes expected to create billions of dollars in insurance bills
* November 14 earthquake causes 27,000 Earthquake Commission claims
ICNZ chief executive Tim Grafton said some of the group's messages, such as the need to read policy documents, were valid, but others "in our view can only contribute to settlement delays".
"There were also personal and a defamatory attack on myself by one of the presenters which we think is inappropriate for the council to broadcast on its website."
Grafton said the presentation contained mixed messages and inaccuracies, including one speaker talking about widespread replacement cover policies.
"The total replacement policies in Canterbury have been replaced in the vast majority of policies by agreed sums insured."
Grafton said Preston had questioned the value of "rapid assessments", which could delay the settlement process.
"This is damaging to people that need rapid assessments for safety and weather-tightness as winter approaches and also with respect to efforts to prioritise the vulnerable."
Grafton said other "outrageous" statements included encouraging claimants to make use of the media, to treat free dispute resolution services with caution, and "trust yourself the most".
"We respect the [Kaikoura] council's role in hosting meetings and distributing material to residents, but we believe in this instance residents will be worse off as a result.
Grafton implied Webb, Taylor, and Lester had political or business motives to be at the meeting.
Webb said the implication was "offensive", and ICNZ's complaint was an attack on free speech.
Several of the allegations by ICNZ were "totally incorrect", and Preston's comments were not out of line, he said.
"[Preston] is a performer, you know, he gets people thinking hard about these difficult questions in a humorous but challenging way, but that's really good.
"He pokes fun at people, he pokes personal fun at some of the players and that would get under my skin if he did it to me, but if you're a public figure you've got to suck it up."
Webb said ICNZ came in "pretty heavy-handed" in telling the Kaikoura council to remove the video.
"It's also just about power . . . you know it's pretty intimidating. Kaikoura District Council, it's a small council."
EQC Fix wanted to provide Kaikoura residents with independent information to assist with their insurance claims, he said.
"What is utterly outrageous is that the ICNZ clearly doesn't like any information that is not vetted and approved by them."
Kaikoura District Council chief executive Angela Oosthuizen said the council aimed to provide accurate information to expedite residents' rebuild processes.
"We are making every effort to do that and do not believe that focussing on the details of the complaint between EQC Fix and the Insurance Council is helpful to our residents," she said.
"We would rather focus on ensuring residents are provided with accurate information that can assist in expediting their claim process and seeing how the Insurance Council and others can assist in that process."