EQC flood-mitigation 'outside the law'

GEORGINA STYLIANOU
Last updated 05:00 19/03/2014

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Using Earthquake Commission payouts for an area-wide flood fix could be illegal, insurance lawyer Duncan Webb says.

Webb, of law firm Lane Neave, raised concerns about the possibility of the Earthquake Commission (EQC) giving cash settlements for land claims to the Christchurch City Council.

Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee this week said EQC was exploring making a financial contribution to the council-led area-wide flood mitigation as part of its role settling residential land damage claims.

"This is being explored as a possible option for settlement of some Canterbury land claims on properties identified as at an increased vulnerability to flooding, including some properties in the Flockton area," Brownlee said on Monday.

However, Webb said the Earthquake Commission Act provided insurance to individual land sites and properties.

"[The proposal] is a way of using the act in a way that is entirely the opposite of what it was intended.

"It would be saying that we know better and we're going to expropriate your land payment and use it in a way we think is best, which won't be to remediate your land."

Webb said while using EQC settlements for area-wide mitigation might be the best option, it was outside of the act.

He felt the Government was "not yet sure it can even do this".

"I suppose [Brownlee] has gone to Crown law . . . and asked ‘can I do this?' but he doesn't know yet," he said.

Speaking to The Press yesterday, Brownlee said Webb's comments were "ridiculous and unhelpful".

No final decisions had been made but Brownlee said he was committed to ensuring the "best and fastest outcome for people in this dreadful situation".

"We don't want a solution that makes life good for one person but bad for another."

He said it was not uncommon for EQC to repair land damage in order to meet its legal obligations.

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- The Press

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