Protesters 'swamp' Southern Response
MARC GREENHILL & CHARLES ANDERSON
Cam Preston has lost patience.
The Richmond homeowner was a reluctant complainer, but a two-year battle with Earthquake Commission (EQC) coupled with an ongoing dispute with his insurer has transformed him into a vocal campaigner.
He was among about 100 customers who today protested for a second time outside Southern Response's Addington offices, where they had earlier this month issued a two-week deadline for answers about their claims.
Preston told The Press he had long-running battle with EQC to have his house judged over cap.
Southern Response now deemed the house a repair which he did not dispute, but there had since been a standoff over the signing of forms Preston said ''varied the insurance contract''.
''I fought for so long with EQC. I just thought that was the lion's share of the work done, but it's [now] 20 times worse.''
Having demanded action at the protest rally two weeks ago, he last week received an email on Friday stating an assessor would visit next month.
''It's progress in a way. I don't really believe that I'll get a proper assessment, but I have to give them a reasonable opportunity to do it.''
The house was liveable but the foundation was ''a bit stuffed'', Preston said.
''We've been happy to chug along for years now just waiting for our turn in line, but nothing seems to happen.''
Preston, who is self employed, was annoyed it took a protest to get action.
''I've got three kids that I need to support . . . I can't afford to be taking time off every Monday to walk down [to Southern Response] with a big sign and yell at [Southern Response chief executive] Peter Rose, but it's the only way these guys listen.
''It's not just me. There's a lot of people down there that just aren't getting anywhere. You can argue progress has been made, but my god it's going to be slow if we have to do this every Monday until these claims are actually settled.''
D-Day for Southern Response
Chief executive Peter Rose, flanked by security guards, again fronted the crowd to answer questions, including the meaning of "as new" in the policy and the time taken to progress rebuilds.
The insurer had received 99 written claims questions, although some today were unhappy with what they felt were generic responses.
The 99 protesters were seeking resolutions to their policies, which they say have been stalled and mismanaged.
"This is D-Day, crunch time," said protest organiser Steve Gurney.
"We've given Southern Response a real opportunity to come clean and sort the mess they've made of people's lives."
He said the protest could get "very fiery" if the customers were still dissatisfied with the insurer's response.
On Saturday, its chief executive Peter Rose promised to change the company's dispute management system to allow all claimants to have access to complete costing information on their rebuild or repair.
Ninety-nine claimants submitted an ultimatum to Rose - 50 in person and 49 by email. Rose promised to look at the claims he had been handed and resolve them "if they are resolvable".
City councillor and fellow protest organiser Ali Jones said any claim was resolvable.
"And it would be fair and reasonable, three years on, to have claims sorted by now."
Gurney said that unless a significant number of the claims were resolved there would be some unhappy people to deal with.
"This is the last-ditch effort for many," he said.
He said the kind of stress people were under was having a serious effect on their health.
Gurney said one woman in her early 40s had been fighting with Southern Response for two years and recently had a heart attack.
Jones said it was becoming "a human rights issue".
"Southern Response and other insurance companies, for whom there are no consequences when they delay and treat people badly, must acknowledge the damage they are doing to our communities and the long-term health of families, and resolve these claims once and for all."
Gurney said since the last protest there was a steady stream of emails and phone calls from people promising to turn out today.
"Looks like we'll easily double the number, maybe more."
People will be gathering at Southern Response's offices in Addington from 7.30am.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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