Flood-hit families ineligible for claims

GEORGINA STYLIANOU
Last updated 05:00 22/07/2014
Jo Byrne
JOSEPH JOHNSON/ Fairfax NZ

FED UP: Jo Byrne and her family moved out of their Carrick St home after the March floods and have just been told they do not meet the Earthquake Commission’s criteria for increased flooding vulnerability. 

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Residents in Christchurch's Flockton basin have been dealt a blow after many were told their land does not meet the Earthquake Commission's criteria for increased flood risk.

For homeowners like Jo Byrne that means continuing to pay a mortgage on a home her family cannot live in and are unlikely to be able to sell.

Byrne met EQC and Tonkin & Taylor engineers last week and was told that her Carrick St property, and many of her neighbours' homes, were ineligible for a land-damage claim under the increased flooding vulnerability (IFV) category.

"Apparently, our property was already at risk in a 100-year flooding event and because we're still at risk in a 100-year flooding event, we don't qualify," she said.

Computer-generated modelling of land and river systems across the city has identified about 9000 properties that may fall into the IFV category.

EQC said yesterday it had written to those 9000 owners informing them of their IFV status and for those who had not received a letter it was possible "the property is affected by factors outside of EQC's cover".

Byrne's family abandoned their mouldy Mairehau home after serious flooding in March. The property has flooded about 15 times since the February 2011 earthquake.

Byrne felt that EQC was trying to reduce its liability by pointing the finger at Christchurch City Council infrastructure and responsibilities, such as the overwhelmed drainage system and buildup of silt in creeks and rivers.

In May, EQC announced it was seeking a declaratory judgment in the High Court to check that the way it wanted to settle land-damage claims for flood-prone homeowners was legal.

"I think for those of us who haven't received letters now . . . the judgment is the only way we'll get any fairness out of this process," Byrne said.

Derek Gabrielle's Stapletons Rd property has flooded nine times since the quakes. He had not received a letter about IFV but said there was "no way we're not in that category".

EQC customer and claims general manager Gail Kettle said it was important that homeowners understood what EQC could, and could not, provide cover for by law.

"There may be some confusion about what areas have flooded due to increased flooding vulnerability damage and what areas have actually flooded due to other factors outside EQC cover," she said.

EQC was only responsible for flooding that had been made worse by earthquake damage on the property.

If a property was in the floodplain before the quakes, homeowners would only receive compensation if the flood depth had increased due to subsidence caused by the quakes.

Once engineers had inspected the damage, valuers would assess whether properties had incurred a long-term value loss as a result of increased flood risk.

Repairs to about 300 homes now in the IFV category are on hold. Customers have been given the option to receive a cash settlement, progress with repairs or remain on hold.

Council transport and greenspace unit manager John Mackie said he understood EQC's position but said the council had a "different approach to assessing" increased flood risk after the earthquakes.

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"The council's investigation and assessment of flood-affected areas found changes in ground levels as a result of the earthquakes in some areas had contributed to increased flooding in regular rain events, up to and including one-in-100-year storm events," he said.

The mayoral flood taskforce had identified properties with an increased flood risk by measuring how often floodwater had been on the property and to what extent.

The taskforce will present its final progress report detailing temporary flood defence measure recommendations to the earthquake recovery committee on August 7.

THE YARDSTICKS

Properties in the increased flooding vulnerability category must have evidence of the following:

- The flood depth has increased by 200 millimetres or more as a result of the quakes.

- The flood depth has increased by 100mm or more as a result of one earthquake.

- The land has incurred observed damage.

- The change in flood risk has caused the value of a property to drop.

- The Press

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