Quake claims need to be prioritised better - Sutton

LOIS CAIRNS
Last updated 13:34 16/08/2012
Ian Simpson, Bruce Emson
STACY SQUIRES/Fairfax NZ

DOING OUR BEST: EQC chief executive Ian Simpson, left, and EQC customer services general manager Bruce Emson face Christchurch City councillors at a forum today.

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Earthquake recovery boss Roger Sutton is calling for better ''triaging'' of insurance and Earthquake Commission (EQC) claims so those most in need get their homes fixed first.

Speaking at a Christchurch City Council forum today, the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) chief executive admitted that more effort needed to be put into the prioritising of claims.

''There are 78-year-old widows living in badly broken houses. It is completely unacceptable that they live there through another winter,'' he said.

''For people in broken homes with young children in the house with asthma, it is also unacceptable.'' 

EQC chief executive Ian Simpson told the council the commission was working with the Ministry of Social Development to prioritise the claims of the most vulnerable in the community and was repairing about 100 of their homes a month.

EQC customer services general manager Bruce Emson said the commission was committed to fixing first the worst of the homes it was responsible for repairing - those that fell under the $100,000 cap but were over $50,000. It hoped to have all those homes repaired by the end of next year.

Emson acknowledged, under questioning from councillors, that deadline did not cover those with the most damaged homes as the cost of repairing or rebuilding their properties exceeded the EQC's cap and was therefore the responsibility of the insurers.

''How the insurers are prioritising their customers I cannot say,'' Emson said.

Simpson and Emson's face-to-face meeting with the council came a week after councillors publicly vented their frustration with the EQC and voted unanimously to pursue the commission for a public explanation of its priorities.

Councillors were upset by the lack of progress being made in repairing people's homes and felt the EQC should be putting at the top of its priority list repairs for the elderly, the vulnerable, families with young children and those in severely damaged properties.

Cr Tim Carter said that he had listened carefully to what Emson and Simpson had to say but was still none the wiser on what systems they had in place to prioritise those most in need and questioned why they had not addressed councillors' concerns.

Emson said he was not there because he had been ''summoned'' to address the council on that issue; he was there in response to an invitation issued by Mayor Bob Parker two weeks ago.

He said the EQC was doing its best to get people's homes repaired, but the task was unprecedented.

''Everybody is doing their damnest, but the reality is is that we have some members in our community who are living in conditions that are intolerable. None of us are happy about that,'' Emson said.

CanCern spokeswoman Leanne Curtis said she was sick of hearing that the EQC was doing its best, and it needed to listen more to the residents on the ground who were continually butting up against the EQC bureaucracy and finding the process incredibly stressful and frustrating.

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''You have to do it better. Not faster; better,'' she said.

- The Press

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