Labour promises quake court and flooding work

SIOBHAN DOWNES AND STACEY KIRK
Last updated 09:29 09/06/2014

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Labour says it will send in army engineers to get flood protection work done in Christchurch if that's what it takes to fix the problem.

And it has promised to set up a special Earthquake Court to speed up claims, to be funded by a levy on insurance companies and the Earthquake Commission.

The announcement today from leader David Cunliffe, comes as residents of the flood-prone Flockton Basin area brace themselves for heavy rain this week.

Up to 50 millimetres of rain has been forecast for the region, prompting the council to install temporary industrial pumps, before a multimillion dollar one is introduced permanently in the next few weeks.

Announcing the first part of Labour's Canterbury policy in Christchurch today, Cunliffe said the slow and messy nature of the earthquake recovery had made it difficult for Cantabrians to move on with their lives.

"Forty months after the February 2011 Christchurch earthquake there are still more than 10,000 insurance claims that have not been settled," he said.

"An Earthquake Court - a special division of the Canterbury District Court - will deal with insurance claims of up to $1 million."

All costs, including lawyers' charges and expert witness fees, would be paid for by the Crown, which would recoup them from the insurance companies and EQC as a levy in proportion to the size of the awards made by the court.

Cunliffe said it worked as "added incentive" for insurance companies to settle outstanding claims as quickly as possible, before they resulted in litigation.

A Labour government would also immediately start urgent work on quake-affected, flood-vulnerable homes, Cunliffe said.

"We believe the Government, through EQC, must pay its share to help those families and communities who, because of the earthquakes, are now having to deal with land that has sunk, and the subsequent flooding of their properties," he said.

"We will amend the law as needed to make it clear that EQC must pay for earthquake damage in the form of land subsidence or other geological changes, and employ army engineers to help with the protection work."

Cunliffe said he would deploy army engineers to get the job done if it came to that.

He also said Labour would make temporary housing available for families that needed it, while flood protection work was being carried out.

The cost of protecting the 500 most flood-prone homes has been put at $20 million, some of which falls to Christchurch City Council after it under-invested in dredging of drains and creeks.

Further announcements for Canterbury's future will be rolled out over the coming weeks. 

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