Protesters besiege claims company

MARC GREENHILL
Last updated 05:05 17/12/2013

Southern Response inaction protest

Southern Response protest
Dean Kozanic Zoom
FURIOUS: Cam Preston tells Southern Response's Peter Rose what he thinks.
Cam Preston
DEAN KOZANIC/Fairfax NZ
FURIOUS: Southern Response customer Cam Preston gets in the face of chief executive Peter Rose during a protest at the insurer's Addington office.

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Thousands of Cantabrians will spend a third Christmas facing insurance limbo.

A second protest yesterday outside the Addington office of Southern Response, a Crown-owned company set up to handle AMI claims, attracted about 100 homeowners frustrated by delays and inaction on their claims.

Recent Insurance Council statistics showed 3420 Canterbury homeowners (14 per cent of the 24,660 claims) did not have confirmed settlement options.

Another 11,250 properties (45 per cent of all claims) were deemed "resolution in progress". About 10,000 claims (41 per cent) have been resolved.

Design work on Nick Regnault's Cashmere home was completed more than a year ago, but progress had "stalled".

The home has not been habitable since the February 2011 quake.

"We understand that everything has a process and everything takes time, but we also believe in fairness and integrity. We've seen examples of Southern Response not meeting those values," he said.

Since the design was completed, building guidelines had been updated and the condition of his land reclassified by the Christchurch City Council.

"[Southern Response] are now saying they need another three to four months to come up with design solutions that meet those standards," Regnault said.

Maureen Thompson said she was told she was "first in the queue" when her central city home was deemed a rebuild two years ago. She has spent nearly three years living in a friend's spare room.

Last week, it was discovered the resource consent for the new build had wrongly been granted for her now-demolished house. Two sets of plans had been submitted to show the design differences with the existing layout.

"The new house was slightly too high, so they gave them consent for the old house," Thompson said. "We're right back at square one."

She was pleased that as a result of lodging a complaint with Southern Response, it agreed to meet her legal costs and would consider compensation for other costs she had incurred.

Cam Preston, among the Southern Response demonstrators, was annoyed at having to protest to get action.

"I can't afford to be taking time off every Monday to walk down [to Southern Response] with a big sign and yell at [chief executive] Peter Rose, but it's the only way these guys listen," Preston said.

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Preston told The Press he had long-running battle with Earthquake Commission (EQC) to have his Richmond home 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," Preston said.

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.

"We've been happy to chug along for years now just waiting for our turn in line, but nothing seems to happen."

Rose, who fronted the protesters flanked by security guards, told media he recognised Southern Response "haven't been as flexible as we could be with some of our customers".

The two weeks since the first protest had been used to develop a "strategy going forward", he said.

"We were never expecting to resolve any claims in that two weeks, but to identify from the 100 concerned what action to take. I'm quite pleased with that," Rose said.

He stood by statements that Southern Response was performing well.

Rose said he preferred to not have customers in dispute, but felt 100 protesters was "probably not a bad benchmark" from the company's total claims.

"Through rudeness and a whole range of threats . . . there's been a tendency from us to withdraw from them. We've got to re-engage and we know that."

Insurer IAG said last week its staff would work through the Christmas break, including Christmas Day, to progress claims.

Project manager Hawkins will be open every day other than public holidays.

"Hawkins has in the past mirrored the construction/building industry shut-down period but they have opted to have staff work through this year, reflecting the fact there is a lot to do," spokeswoman Renee Walker said.

Southern Response, the region's largest holder of quake claims, will be closed on public holidays only.

- The Press

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