EQC 'waiting for us to die'

'Vulnerable' elderly women wait for EQC action

CHARLES ANDERSON
Last updated 05:00 15/03/2014
Marlene Naish
KIRK HARGREAVES/Fairfax NZ

BOXING ON: Marlene Naish is still waiting for an Earthquake Commission decision on the future of her Burwood Home almost three years after the first assessment. Many of her possessions are still packed in boxes as it seems pointless unpacking.

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The boxes are still stacked up in Marlene Naish's home.

» How Dot's case was missed

She cannot bring herself to unpack again. She and five other women, all over 80, were told by the Earthquake Commission that they would be out in January for repairs to begin on their properties.

But then, in the middle of January, a message came through that their homes would need to be reassessed again - almost three years since the first assessment was completed.

"I think they are waiting for us to die," said 84-year-old Margaret McGovern.

The six of them are on EQC's priority list for vulnerable claimants because of their age and health, which has resulted in them warding off cancer, heart issues and hernias. But the hope that came with being told their repairs would be fast-tracked is dwindling.

"It's very stressful," McGovern said. "I often say I'm not stressed but deep down you are. We have had no end of illness after illness."

All the homes have extensive cracking in the floors and, the owners believe, they have shifted significantly off their foundations.

However, the EQC has still not yet decided whether they are a rebuild or repair.

Naish, 81, is at pains to say that they know other people are much worse off. They are able to live in their homes in relative comfort but it was the not knowing that was hurting the most.

"We are now back at square one," she said.

This week The Press reported the case of Dot Boyd, an 85-year-old vulnerable claimant, who fell through EQC's cracks. A resolution came only after Labour politicians stepped in and highlighted Boyd's story in the media. EQC said at least 85 others had stories which mirrored Boyd's.

The women's homes are part of a body corporate that is classified as a multi-unit dwelling by EQC. These are known to be the cases taking the longest, because of the confusion arising from shared walls and multiple insurance policies.

However, that is of little comfort to the residents - some of whom were too frail to leave their homes to speak to The Press.

"We are too old to hang around," Naish said.

Some elderly vulnerable claimants did not want to reveal their plight because they would not be able to handle the stress of moving out if their claims went forward. Instead, they wanted to see out their days under the radar in quake-damaged homes.

"I'm sure there are plenty more out there like us," Margaret Green, 80, said. "We are just a few."

EQC's Canterbury home repair programme manager, Reid Stiven, said the six women had been identified as "vulnerable".

"While homes were put through an initial assessment for damage by EQC in the months following the earthquakes, an up-to-date and more detailed inspection is undertaken by EQC, Fletcher EQR and the contractor prior to repairs getting under way.

"The resulting Scope of Works sometimes identifies further damage that was not detected in the initial assessment. There can be a number of reasons for this, with the most common being damage from subsequent aftershocks.

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"This review is now complete and as these customers have been identified as vulnerable, we are prioritising these claims through the Canterbury home-repair programme to ensure their repairs are completed in a timely manner."

- The Press

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