Homeowners to get help with claims

20:10, Aug 12 2012

Earthquake-hit property owners could soon have access to an insurance advisory service based in Christchurch.

Insurance companies are close to signing off plans for a new service that should make it easier for homeowners to navigate their way through the red tape and get their claims settled.

The new service is the insurance industry's response to growing public anger over the time it is taking some property owners to get answers on when, or if, their properties will be repaired.

Details have yet to be released as insurance company chief executives still need to give their approval.

Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee last month said he had "lost patience" with insurance companies and that they needed to lift their game.

"Things are taking too long and I don't believe that EQC [Earthquake Commission] is the problem," he said.


His comments followed the Christchurch City Council voting unanimously to ask him to urgently set up an insurance tribunal and advocacy service based in Christchurch.

The council's plea was driven by concerns insurers were holding up the rebuild and placing homeowners under stress.

Renee Walker, a spokeswoman for IAG, which owns the State, NZI, AMI and Lantern brands, said yesterday that the Insurance Council was investigating the option of an advisory or advocacy-type service as an alternative to the tribunal suggested by the city council.

"How the service would work in practice is still being investigated but it is hoped that more information will be available in the coming weeks," Walker said.

Cr Glenn Livingstone, who led the council's call for intervention, said yesterday that he was pleased the insurance companies appeared to be acting on the public's concerns.

"I would still prefer a tribunal, but if this [new service] will enable residents to get on with their lives and enable the economic recovery to step up, then I support it," he said.

The effectiveness of the service would depend on whether it had autonomy and "teeth".

If the service had no authority to compel insurance companies to act, or if it was seen by residents as being controlled by insurance company bosses, its effectiveness could be limited, he said.

"I really hope it will lead to claims being fast-tracked because unlocking insurance issues is the key to Christchurch's recovery," he said.

Insurance Council spokesman Brett Solvander said there was broad agreement across the industry on the need for some sort of Christchurch-based body to try to resolve insurance issues, but the mechanics of how that body would work and how it would be funded were still being resolved.

The Press