Brownlee admits EQC claim mistake

TRACY WATKINS
Last updated 17:14 05/03/2014

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Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee has been forced into a humiliating backdown after understating by hundreds the number of requests from Labour MPs to the Earthquake Commission on behalf of their constituents.

Brownlee said he would be writing to the Labour MPs to apologise.

In a fiery speech yesterday, Brownlee slammed Labour MPs for "despicable" behaviour.

They had only lodged only five requests for assistance for their constituents through EQC despite "plenty of tub thumping", he said.

However, in Parliament today the Government was forced to table information showing Labour MPs had lodged a total of 212 requests for assistance, including 120 requests from Labour's spokeswoman for Canterbury earthquake recovery, Ruth Dyson, 29 from former Christchurch East MP Lianne Dalziel and 63 from her successor, Poto Williams.

The information from EQC had shown Christchurch-based Labour list MP Clayton Cosgrove as lodging only two requests, but Labour tabled documents showing that there had been 19 individual cases in the last six months alone.

Speaking on behalf of Brownlee, who was in Christchurch to see flood damage, Associate Minister for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Amy Adams told Parliament the minister would be writing to Labour MPs to apologise.

The minister had been acting on advice from EQC which was "not an accurate reflection of the number of requests for assistance from Labour MPs and for this the minister unreservedly apologises and will be writing personally to those MPs with his apologies", Adams said.

"The minister will be taking this up with the Earthquake Commission at the highest levels."

Brownlee's tirade had been sparked by Labour taking up the case of Dot Boyd, 85, who is still waiting on repairs to her Aranui home three years on from the February 2011 Christchurch earthquake.

Brownlee had said it was "despicable" that Labour used Boyd for a photo opportunity without raising her case with EQC.

However, Parliament was told Boyd's case had been raised with EQC, in June 2013, eight months before her plight received media publicity.

"If he was so unaware of the complaints made to the Earthquake Commission by Canterbury Labour MPs how many thousands of other Cantabrians will be having their complaints to the Earthquake Commission fall on deaf ears?"Dyson said.

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