Brownlee's bombshell leaves Cantabrians in the dark

Gerry Brownlee has left too many unanswered questions about the quality of earthquake repairs.
Cameron Burnell

Gerry Brownlee has left too many unanswered questions about the quality of earthquake repairs.

ANALYSIS: Gerry Brownlee dropped a bombshell when he announced all Earthquake Commission (EQC) foundation repairs done without a building consent would be audited and errant builders would face sanctions.

The announcement came after information was leaked about a Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) investigation of 101 quake repairs, mostly managed by EQC.

The investigation's results were due at the end of June, but no one seems to know when they will come out.

What we do know is that shoddy work was found and it was bad enough to prompt a full audit of all EQC underfloor repairs done without a consent.

Brownlee, the Earthquake Recovery Minister, is already targeting "cowboy" builders and said they would have to pay for their mistakes.

This includes doing remedial work and potentially losing their licence.

Brownlee wouldn't say how many homes would be audited, but MBIE said earlier this year about 2300 homes had had structural repairs without a building consent.

That's all we know.

Homeowners and the building industry have been left in the dark on the full implications of the investigation.

Who is going to pay for the audit of those 2300-plus houses? EQC – in other words, the taxpayer – or Fletcher EQR, which has been overseeing repairs?

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Who will do the assessments? Homeowners have lost confidence in EQC and will need convincing the process is robust.

Should other repairs be checked? The MBIE investigation was prompted by an earlier quality survey of quake repairs on 14 properties which found problems in 13 of them.

Experts found defects including superficial patching of earthquake cracks running through foundation walls, the use of inappropriate building materials and poorly installed exterior brickwork or solid plaster repairs.

How can homeowners be sure a builder who did shoddy foundation work did other repairs on a house properly?

Insurers were also part of the MBIE investigation – 14 over-cap repairs were checked and sources have said that many failed the test.

Will the Government ask them to audit their own work? 

If the builders are to blame and to bear the cost of fixing this mess, many will go bankrupt.

And is it fair to blame the builders?

Experts and industry leaders say EQC and Fletcher EQR need to take responsibility for selecting bad builders, scoping work inappropriately, giving tight budgets and failing to identify faulty work.

For years, foundation experts have raised concerns about the MBIE repair guidelines.

However, Brownlee said it was a poor workmanship issue and that EQC and EQR's processes were good.

It is unclear whether the investigation looked beyond the workmanship to the assessment work guiding it.

Will cash-settled repairs be reviewed?

Brownlee has left the community with too many unanswered questions.

After years of stress, homeowners face fresh anxiety.

The full results of the investigation must be released as soon as possible, along with a clear timeline and plan of action from the Government.

 - Stuff

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