Christchurch Earthquake 2011
The delays and confusion in getting earthquake insurance claims settled are the result of a "tentative journey into the unknown", according to Southern Response chief executive Peter Rose.
But that does not wash with insurance claimant advocate group "Southern No Response" which says claimants paid premiums to their insurers in preparation for the very situation the Canterbury earthquakes created.
Sparked by recent protests against the insurer Rose, in an opinion piece in today's Press, said many factors contributed to the difficulties in settling insurance claims. These included environmental and human factors and that the earthquakes were unprecedented anywhere in the world.
"I believe that these factors contributed significantly to the protests against Southern Response late last year," he writes.
However Ali Jones, speaking on behalf of Southern No Response, said this claim was disconcerting as insurance companies gave claimants a clear expectation that they would "look after us".
Rose said Southern Response's settlement and build progress was on track with other insurance companies. However, Jones said this was "obfuscation at worst and naivety at best".
"It is well known that Southern Response inherited a large number of very old houses from AMI, most had total replacement 'as new' policy cover," she said. "These houses did not perform well in the earthquakes and that is why the rebuild figure is as high as it is."
Rose said the insurer's "formal dispute rate" was 3.5 per cent, however Jones suggested that there were many others who were not in formal dispute but were still "at the end of their tether" with Southern Response.
"Southern Response should never have disengaged in the first place and should have put in as much time as was needed to resolve these claims."
Rose cited a recent High Court case where "a customer was apparently persuaded to make a claim for Southern Response to pay $1.2 million to build a standard four-bedroom house (excluding the land)". He said the judge in that case was critical of the "unjustified and ill- advised" extent of the claim.
"This was not an isolated case," Rose said.
However, Jones said in that case the judge was also critical of the time Southern Response had taken over the claim - both in the nearly three years it took to process and the changing of Southern Response's position with regards to multiple Detailed Repair Analyses.
"Sadly that is still going on," she said.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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