Big fight ahead for red-zoners

Olly Ohlson
Olly Ohlson

Christchurch red-zoners pursuing legal action against their insurers will likely have to go it alone.

Former children's television host Olly Ohlson has launched Project Red Zone on fundraising website PledgeMe, to raise more than $30,000 for a High Court challenge against the insurance payout being offered for his Brooklands home.

The house was deemed repairable, but the land was written off by the Government. Ohlson felt he should be paid full replacement value if forced to rebuild elsewhere.

Dallington couple Matt and Valerie O'Loughlin have also begun raising funds to fight for their red-zoned home.

State policyholders last year formed a group to investigate class action against their insurer, while finance commentator Janine Starks said if the same issues existed in Auckland insurers "would have been tested in court long ago".

However, Ohlson said class action was "not an option", forcing him to seek a more costly individual court battle.

"The judges have seen that class action won't work because of individual differences in policies, even with the same company," he said.

Law Society property spokesman Lindsay Lloyd, a partner at Christchurch's MDS Law, said mounting a successful class action case was not easy and it was common for policy conditions to be "fine-tuned".

"There's many different companies and many different policies within companies, so to get a number of really like-minded situations is fairly unusual. I think it's unfortunate people are having to take individual action.

"The insurance companies were always going to call the tune on this, right back from September 2010."

However, a successful individual case could not be discounted.

"It's new territory, which a lot of people hadn't anticipated in the past," Lloyd said.

Some policies state houses will be rebuilt elsewhere if the land is deemed unsuitable for building, but that was mainly for flood risk, he said.

Ohlson has raised $1640 through the website and has 58 days to raise the rest.

The money is returned if the total is not reached.

"It's humiliating to have to ask people for money, but when I think about Barack Obama, who was one of the first to use crowd funding, I don't feel so bad," he said.

"We're hoping that [money] will come through, but it's more about signalling to the insurance company that we're not going to lie down and just take it and to open the door for other people to take the same process."

He hoped the case would set a precedent and raise awareness of the plight faced by some red-zoners.

"I think a lot of the public don't realise the kind of conflict and stress being placed on people by the earthquake. Because we're red-zoned we have to get off our properties, so [insurers] have to treat us differently and offer us real value for our homes."

The Press