Quake leaders shun show over 'safety concerns'
Three earthquake recovery leaders declined to front Campbell Live's September 4 programme because of grave security concerns and disapproval of the show's format.
Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee, Insurance Council New Zealand chief executive Tim Grafton and Earthquake Commission (EQC) chief executive Ian Simpson hit back at criticism for not appearing on the live earthquake anniversary special at Shirley Boys' High School last night.
Residents with unresolved issues packed the hall to air their frustrations, hoping the leaders would be there to listen.
Campbell Live told its audience Grafton and Simpson advised the show on Thursday morning they would not show, citing personal safety concerns in light of the Ashburton shootings on Monday.
Grafton told The Press the incident may have contributed to overall security concerns raised for a forum featuring distraught and frustrated residents.
He said he offered to be interviewed live on camera.
''We would have emailed that message half a dozen times and yesterday I was in Christchurch and said I was available throughout the day for such an interview but Campbell Live decided not to interview me.''
Grafton said it would have been inappropriate to field complaints about claims he had no historical background on and which needed to be addressed by individual insurance companies.
''My concern was that this was not a professionally facilitated event that had a clear programme or well-considered objectives, in fact the advertising circulated by some groups appeared to present the event as an opportunity to stage a protest rally.''
An EQC spokesman would not say directly that Monday's shooting forced Simpson to pull out, but it had intensified focus on person safety.
''EQC staff have received threats in the recent past. Safety at work is an issue we take very seriously. However, EQC continues to engage in public forums,'' the spokesman said.
He said EQC had ''an excellent track record of appearing on Campbell Live''.
A spokesman for Brownlee said he maintained that a live TV show was not the best place to help people with complex insurance problems, especially if relevant information was not supplied in advance.
CanCERN spokeswoman Leanne Curtis believed the format ''wasn't going to be terribly helpful or constructive'' for those still battling with their claims.