EQC letter cold comfort to flooded resident

Last updated 05:00 23/07/2014
Elizabeth Moore
John Kirk-Anderson/Fairfax NZ
STILL WAITING: Elizabeth Moore at her Fendalton home, which will be rebuilt once consents come through.

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A letter confirming the "potential" for quake-related flood risk on her Christchurch property is barely worth the paper it is written on for Carla Martin.

The Warrington St homeowner was among 9000 landowners advised by the Earthquake Commission of their increased flood vulnerability (IFV) status, while empty letterboxes for affected neighbours showed they did not meet the criteria.

EQC has deemed IFV properties must have evidence of increased flood depth by 200 millimetres or more as a result of the quakes, 100mm or more as a result of one earthquake, observed land damage and a drop in property value.

Martin said yesterday she felt for neighbours who did not qualify but said her letter was meaningless. "It doesn't mean much because it just says we have the probability, but at least we've got the letter. I can't believe the people around us haven't got the letter."

The house was demolished in February and her insurer, Vero, has spent about $60,000 lifting the semi-rebuilt home. About 33,000 litres of water had to be drained from the property before work could begin, Martin said.

Even with the house lifted, the rest of the property would continue to be inundated when she moved back in October.

"I'm not kidding you when I say I'm considering getting an inflatable boat so we can get from our house to our garage. That's the reality."

Lawyer Duncan Webb, who has been providing legal advice to the Flockton Cluster residents' group, said the EQC criteria were "utterly irrational" and "entirely arbitrary".

"It's ridiculous to suggest these guys whose houses are flooded time and again . . . are not more flood vulnerable than they were [pre-quake]," he said.

Aerial surveying using LiDAR could be out by significant amounts on individual sections. The criteria also did not take into account changes to land not on the homeowner's property that contributed to increased flood risk.

Lawyer Simon Munro agreed the criteria appeared arbitrary.

"If there is an increase in flooding vulnerability that's at 198mm, does that really make much difference compared to, say, 202mm?"

In his view, loss of value was the only relevant factor. The other three were "inappropriately limiting" claims.

EQC had "valid concerns" it could be lumped with full liability, even if some of the flood risk could be attributed to factors not related to land changes, such as infrastructure damage or waterways.

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EQC customer and claims general manager Gail Kettle said "extensive research and modelling" had been used to determine which properties were affected and this research had been internationally peer reviewed.

The thresholds set for IFV took LiDAR reading errors into account, she said.

"In some places, the earthquakes have increased flood potential for the time being through changes to river heights, narrowing of riverbanks, shallower riverbeds and damage to public stormwater infrastructure. EQC does not cover these causes of flooding," Kettle said.

- The Press

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