East is least, west is best, survey shows

CHARLIE GATES
Last updated 05:00 11/05/2013

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The eastern suburbs are getting a "raw deal" in the repair of thousands of Christchurch homes, a survey commissioned by The Press has found.

The survey also found that earthquake repair work has stalled for nearly a third of Christchurch homeowners.

Market research firm Research First surveyed 392 Christchurch people about their home repair experiences. The results have a margin of error of plus or minus 5 per cent.

The findings reveal a divided city in the wake of the Canterbury earthquakes. People in the west of the city were more likely to have had their repair work completed than eastern residents, while respondents from the east of the city were less happy with their damage assessments than those in the west.

About 37 per cent of residents in the Burwood/Pegasus ward were happy with their damage assessment, compared to 65 per cent in the western ward of Fendalton/Waimairi. The survey also found that 19 per cent of residents in Fendalton/Waimairi felt their damage assessment was generous, compared with 5 per cent in the Burwood/Pegasus ward.

Residents in Fendalton/Waimairi are also more likely to have had their work completed, at 31 per cent of respondents, compared with 21 per cent in Burwood/Pegasus.

Research First director Simon Worthington said the eastern suburbs were getting a "raw deal".

"Depending on where you live in the city, there is a real disparity on how you are treated and that backs up what people in the eastern suburbs have been saying for a long time, that they are getting a raw deal."

The survey also found that 30 per cent of respondents said they were still waiting to hear from the Earthquake Commission (EQC) or their insurer after negotiations had stalled. And 26 per cent of people were still awaiting further action on their home beyond the initial EQC assessment. If you live in the east, your claim was more likely to have stalled.

Worthington said claims had often stalled because of poor communication. "What came through from this research time and time again was poor communication with everyone from builders to insurers and EQC.

"There is a huge degree of uncertainty out there and no decisions are being made. The delays are not just overnight, in many cases they are weeks and months."

The majority of survey respondents were happy with the assessment and rebuild plans for their homes, but a third of people were unhappy or extremely unhappy. Many respondents felt their damage assessment fell short of expectations, with 8.7 per cent saying their assessment missed obvious earthquake damage and 5.4 per cent claiming EQC wouldn't fix damage caused by the earthquake.

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But just 1.8 per cent of respondents said their cash settlement was more than the cost of repairs and just over 1 per cent said damage was fixed that wasn't earthquake related.

Worthington said they found very few examples of questionable practices in repair work.

"We were hearing horror stories about repair jobs and we wanted to find out if it is urban myth or if is it true? We thought we would find lots of stories of extravagance in the repair programme, workers being paid cash jobs and things like that, but that was not true at all," he said.

"We found very small examples, but we think they are so small they are insignificant. When you extrapolate that across the city it is minimal."

Canterbury home repair programme manager for EQC, Reid Stiven, said "no one area has been favoured over another" and that jobs completed so far were spread across the city.

Stiven said they had conducted their own survey of 1000 people that found 83 per cent of people were satisfied with repairs.

But he admitted they could improve communication with homeowners.

"With regard to customer satisfaction, our customers are telling us we are not communicating adequately and we have made a commitment to contact them all within the next three months and to maintain more frequent contact in the future."

- The Press

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