Why is Alf still waiting?

92-year-old stuck in damaged home

ASHLEIGH STEWART
Last updated 05:00 07/06/2014
Alf Johnson
JOHN KIRK-ANDERSON/Fairfax NZ
LONG DELAY: Alf Johnson, 92, is still living in his earthquake-damaged home despite promises his rebuild would be prioritised.

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Alf Johnson's house is still slanting.

The 92-year-old's home is still filled with boxes and piles of belongings as he readies himself to move out. And he is still waiting.

Two and a half months after The Press spoke to Johnson, he is still in his sloping St Martins home.

He is one of more than 4000 vulnerable claimants still awaiting action on their damaged homes, with the Earthquake Commission (EQC) or private insurers.

When State Insurance representatives visited Johnson immediately after his story was highlighted in March, he had been happy the insurers had "finally had a wake-up call".

April 30 was the date set for him to move out and for the demolition to begin. Once again, the big move never happened.

"I'm getting a bit browned off, because they're so long-winded about it," Johnson said.

State spokeswoman Renée Walker said Johnson's plans were now with the council awaiting building consent.

The consent had been "slow" but the council was receiving record application numbers, she said.

It was "understandably frustrating" for Johnson, Walker said.

"We could demolish Mr Johnson's home tomorrow, but unfortunately this would not get him any closer to his new home without consent from council for the new build."

It has been a series of misfires and delays for Johnson, who was paid $15,000 by EQC for repairs after the September earthquake before the February quakes put him over cap.

The contract was signed and a builder was selected in August before yet another assessment of the land was requested.

He said he had been instructed to pack and be ready to vacate his home in December last year.

Christmas came and went and Johnson remained.

Walker said State and Labour's earthquake recovery spokeswoman Ruth Dyson had "chased" Johnson's claim with the council on May 6, and again on May 21.

However, a council spokeswoman said they had sent a request for more information to the owner's agent on May 16, and could not proceed with granting a consent until this was received.

Correspondence was not received until Thursday after following up inquiries from The Press, she said.

A spokeswoman for Orange Homes said the information was now back with the council, and declined to comment further.

Dyson said she had been to visit Johnson to "see how he was getting on".

"It's an absolutely unacceptable outrage that this man is being kept waiting, with his home packed up for 18 months," she said.

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EQC said 2800 new vulnerable customers were now awaiting repair, a decrease from a list of 4220 in March and including the 3000 identified since January.

The latest 3000 includes customers who may be repaired or cash settled.

EQC national customer and claims manager Michael Price said the commission had fully resolved 86 per cent of vulnerable claims.

Since January, 3237 "new" vulnerable customers had been identified. This included 429 identified in May.

Insurance Council spokesman Samson Samasoni said private insurers were yet to fully settle about 900 customers classed as vulnerable.

The number had risen from 800 still waiting in March because of new over-cap claims being received from EQC, he said.

Vulnerable customers were prioritised in the over-cap rebuild programme but it was a "moving target" as more claims were transferred to insurers.

- The Press

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