Petition calling for EQC inquiry considered by select committee

Hundreds of homeowners who are still battling EQC showed up to a meeting in the Transitional Cathedral on Thursday night.

Hundreds of homeowners who are still battling EQC showed up to a meeting in the Transitional Cathedral on Thursday night.

An inquiry into defective Earthquake Commission (EQC) repairs appears to be a step closer, after a petition protesting substandard work was referred to a parliamentary committee.

Christchurch lawyer Duncan Webb, who will run for Labour in Christchurch Central at the next election, made the announcement at the launch of EQC Fix at the Transitional Cathedral on Thursday night.

Greater Christchurch Regeneration Minister Gerry Brownlee maintains he will not support an inquiry.

MORNING REPORT/Radio New Zealand

More than 300 people turned out to a meeting in Christchurch last night to hear about botched Earthquake Commission repairs.

The referral to the finance and expenditure select committee had come as a "surprise", Webb told 300 homeowners still fighting EQC. 

"We got over 3000 signatures, so that was really fantastic.

"That was delivered to Parliament by Andrew Little and Megan Woods and it could've stopped there, but thankfully it didn't," he said.

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Instead, the petition had been referred to the select committee.

"That in itself came as a little bit of a surprise, but the biggest surprise was when they got hold of me and said . . . 'Can you make a submission?'" Webb said.

"I wrote to them and explained what the problems were and the size of the problem, so they are currently considering that."

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Since sending his written submission on Monday, Webb had been asked to submit to the committee in person.

"From that some real action could come, which hopefully won't be downsizing EQC.

"I think it indicates to me that the select committee process is working and the MPs are interested . . . I think that's really heartening," Webb said.

"Obviously the select committee may form some views of what should be done and they can make some recommendations."

EQC on Wednesday announced proposed changes to its structure, which would see the country's natural disaster insurer cut 242 jobs in Christchurch.

The move, which also proposes cuts in Wellington and Hamilton, would reduce operating costs from $190 million to $95m.

The petition was launched in September 2015 and presented to Little in April.

The EQC Fix launch also included presentations by insurance industry critic Cameron Preston​ and Anthony Harper head of litigation Peter Woods.

Brownlee said Webb requested the opportunity to speak to the select committee.

"I wouldn't want to pre-empt what a select committee might decide, but certainly as far as an inquiry constituted by me I don't support that."

There were points which "tend to get missed" when talking about the possibility of an inquiry.

"The first point is Duncan Webb is a political candidate who has never had anything positive to say about anything that's happened in Christchurch over the last five years.

"If you look at the call back rate on brand new houses, it is over 85 per cent . . . The EQR call back through the Fletcher repair programme is less than five per cent.

"So I don't think that is the basis for an inquiry at all."

A very small number of people had "never been satisfied" with the EQC assessment process or had issues with work that had been completed, he said.

"EQC could easily have just gone round, made an assessment, and quite lawfully paid out a cheque to people and had nothing more to do with the issue.

"We felt, as a Government, that would leave people in a position where they had to fight in a queue to get a builder, but also probably pay very, very high rates.

"They may not always have had somewhere to go if they weren't satisfied with the work."

 - Stuff


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