Low interest in land repair for liquefaction risk, EQC says
The Earthquake Commission (EQC) says it has paid out just five full claims for liquefaction-related ground repairs because few customers are interested in claiming the full amount.
But a homeowner and advocate for people with earthquake claims says that is because there are too many hoops to jump through.
The earthquakes caused widespread liquefaction and caused the water table to rise in some areas, making land more vulnerable to liquefaction in future earthquakes.
According to EQC data, up to 8400 properties could qualify for increased liquefaction vulnerability (ILV) payments, of which about 4400 are confirmed to be more vulnerable to liquefaction now than before the earthquakes.
EQC has settled many of those claims for "diminution of value" – the amount the property decreased in value because of liquefaction risk.
But only five have been settled for the cost to repair the land to its pre-earthquake condition, and some property owners have argued they should be entitled to this higher amount.
Another 20 properties had "entered the process" and were likely to get paid for cost of repair "in due course", an EQC spokesman said.
"We have not had high levels of interest from customers in this process."
He said EQC had paid out another 31 property owners for land repairs as part of a research project to find appropriate repair solutions.
Cameron Preston, a Christchurch accountant, has been battling EQC to get full the repair cost for his Richmond land.
He said EQC paid him $17,000, which it said was the amount his family would need to make up the difference to sell up and buy a similar home elsewhere.
"We don't want to move from our house, so the correct way to fix the damage is to actually fix the damage."
He said he did not care if EQC repaired the land or cash settled, as long as he got what he was entitled to under the EQC Act.
An EQC spokesman said the $17,000 could be topped up to the cost of repair once Preston progressed his land repairs.
"However, he is also seeking costs from EQC to lift his house and replace his foundations, which already form part of his building claim that was settled at cap by EQC in May 2012."
Preston said that response was "disingenuous", and he was not seeking costs to lift the house.
"We just want to get our land repaired."
Preston said he had approached EQC about a method called "horizontal soil mixing", which did not require the house to be lifted, but EQC rejected it as too expensive.
It was EQC's idea to lift the house, but it expected Preston to pay for it, he said.
"That's impossible. We haven't got the money to do that."
The EQC Act treats land payouts differently to building payouts. The maximum it can pay for land damage per earthquake event is the value of the smallest allowable residential plot in that area or the area that is actually damaged, whichever is smaller.
Preston said the value of a minimum plot in Richmond was $180,000.
He said EQC should be liable for the cap payment, which would probably not cover the full cost of repairs.
"We think it's going to be in the hundreds of thousands."
He said few people would be willing or able to "jump though hoops" in hiring experts and negotiating with EQC to get full land repair costs.