Court process could extend Flockton woe

Last updated 05:00 24/07/2014

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Flood-prone Christchurch residents tired of battling the Earthquake Commission (EQC) could now face a lengthy wait for a resolution through the courts. 

The Flockton Cluster Residents' Group met last night for an update about a declaratory judgement in the High Court that will determine how EQC settles land damage claims for increased flood vulnerability (IFV).

Group lawyer Duncan Webb told residents not to be alarmed if they had not received letters from EQC outlining their IFV status. He said EQC was trying to reduce its liability and had set four ''arbitrary thresholds'' that looked past a ''very simple legal question''.

''What is the damage to the land...and has that damage had an adverse effect?''

This week many homeowners in the Mairehau-St Albans area - dubbed the Flockton Basin - were shocked to learn that despite flooding numerous times since the earthquakes, they did not meet EQC's criteria to be eligible for compensation under the IFV.

EQC wants to settle IFV land claims by calculating the loss of value of a person's property as a result of flooding and paying out the difference. This form of settlement has never been used so EQC has asked to court for a judgement on whether or not it is legal.

Webb predicted the High Court judge would rule that EQC's thresholds and policy for settling IFV claims were flawed. 

''Unfortunately, it does mean that this could drag out,'' he said. 

''But we know now that EQC's policy doesn't capture quite as many people as we think it should.''

If EQC did have to go back to the drawing board, by the time it had developed a new way of settling IFV claims, the Christchurch City Council could have done a ''sterling job'' with flood mitigation work, Webb said. 

''EQC could come along and say that a year ago your land was damaged and you were within the one in 50-year [flooding] event but now you're not because the risk has been remediated.''

The aerial surveying using LiDAR used by EQC was fine at a city-wide level but could be out by significant amounts on individual sections. The criteria for IFV did not take into account changes to land not on the homeowner's property that contributed to increased flood risk.

Many homeowners were worried about the effect frequent flooding was having on the overall condition of their homes and others were holding off on repairs until there was a clear resolution around the flooding issues. 

One homeowner claimed he had been told by a Tonkin & Taylor engineer that his land had dropped by 400 millimetres but he did not meet the criteria for IFV.

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''There was no mention of the four thresholds . . . he just said that because we had always been in a floodplain and in the case of a 1 in 100-year event, we were still in a floodplain.

''I just feel like we get mixed message from everyone.''

Group spokeswoman Jo Byrne said EQC was ''just playing games''.

''It's been a heck of a week for us...but the issues we face aren't getting any smaller and we're doing the right thing by going to the High Court.''

EQC this week said it had written to 9000 homeowners informing them of their IFV status. If people had not received a letter it was possible their damage related to things outside EQC's cover liability.

Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel has not been available to speak about this issue this week. Her spokesman said she had asked for more information about EQC's approach to flooding claims. 

A court date is set for late October.



- The Press


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