It’s no April Fool’s Joke – Insurers Censoring Information Provided to Kaikoura Earthquake Claimants
The NZ insurance council has forced a local district council to pull a video designed to assist earthquake claimants still struggling after the November Kaikoura earthquake.
The Kaikoura District Council has removed the more than one hour long video of the eqcfix.nz presentation made to around 100 people in Kaikoura on the 23 March.
On Wednesday, a media inquiry alerted the eqcfix.nz group to the ICNZ’s demands, which the insurers said was for “several reasons”.
Spokesperson and Christchurch lawyer Dr Duncan Webb says no one from ICNZ has contacted eqc.nz with their concerns and it is only after eqcfix.nz rang the insurance council to find out what was going on, that unspecified issues were brought to their attention.
“The ICNZ alleged several things which were totally incorrect,” says Webb. “They have mentioned confusing information, irrelevant information and some suggestion of a defamatory comment, the details of which we have no idea.”
Dr Webb says the eqcfix.co.nz team was pleased that the KDC did not initially buckle to what he says amounts to bullying demands from the insurance council, however later on the 30 March, the group was informed the video would not be reinstated at all. No reason was given.
“The Kaikoura District Council has been fantastic to work with in the planning and execution of the recent public event,” he says. “We completely understand and respect the KDC’s decision but what is disappointing is the bullying behaviour of the insurers, something we are very familiar with.”
Webbs says the presentation was designed to provide residents with independent information to assist them with their earthquake claims, “which is what we did. What is utterly outrageous is that the ICNZ clearly doesn’t like any information that is not vetted and approved by them.”
Event organiser Mel Bourke says the team of volunteers who left early in the morning and returned to Christchurch late at night, is extremely disappointed by the adversarial actions from ICNZ.
“We would have expected that anyone with concerns or questions would immediately come to us, any one of our team is easy to contact. ICNZ should have got in touch with eqcfix.nz to highlight the concerns. To date we have not heard anything from them at all. We still don’t know what the alleged inaccurate information is and there’s nothing in our presentation that we haven’t presented many times before over the last six years, presentations the ICNZ has been well aware of,” she says.
Bourke says eqcfix.nz has already received several emails from people who are in concerning situations that mirror the traumatic experiences of claimants in Christchurch.
A couple of examples of these include, home owners being offered cash settlements when no internal roof or underfloor inspection has been undertaken (on homes that clearly need those inspections); or other owners being told by roofing professionals, in order to reach the standard required in the EQC Act, their roof must be replaced, but the appointed insurance assessor is stating the roof is fine.
“After the Christchurch experience, it is clear that homeowners need to vigilant, knowledgeable and savvy to effectively navigate the New Zealand earthquake claims process. Perhaps even more so in the sum insured environment in which we now live, as cash payments are the norm and that comes with its own hooks and issues,” Mel Bourke says.
Duncan Webb says the overwhelming feedback from many who attended in Kaikoura, as well as the thousands to whom they have presented Christchurch over the years, is that the information is incredibly helpful.
“It gives people some power back as this is very much about David and Goliath,” he says. “Knowledge is definitely power and the insurers know this.”
Eqcfix.nz was established last year as a social justice project to support people navigating the often confusing and stressful experience related to insurance claims.
A significant number of people in Christchurch have felt that their earthquake claims were not only mishandled by EQC, many believe their homes have been inadequately assessed. As a result, homes in Christchurch have been inadequately repaired, leaving homeowners mentally and financially distressed.
Mel Bourke says there is one glimmer of hope on the horizon coming out of ICNZ but she sounds a word of caution.
“We welcome the ICNZ’s latest announcement that all claims will be settled by the end of this year however we must reiterate - settling is great, but settling as per policy and ensuring claimants get what they are entitled to in a fair and reasonable timeframe, is another thing. Let’s hope EQC and the insurers understand that.”
CONTACT Ali Jones 027 247 3112 for more info www.Eqcfix.nz
On the 23rd March, three members of the Steering Committee, Dr Duncan Webb (lawyer), Mel Bourke (facilitator and ChCh homeowner) and Cam Preston (accountant and analyst), along with a Lisa Taylor (lawyer with Anthony Harper), and Dean Lester, (independent insurance advisor), planned and delivered a community meeting at the Kaikoura Memorial Hall.
The meeting was videoed, and the Kaikoura District Council uploaded the video to their Civil Defence Facebook page.
On March 30th, the New Zealand Insurance Council (ICNZ) told the KDC that they wanted the video removed, citing “defamatory comments, factual inaccuracies and confusing information” as the reasons. Eqcfix.nz then understood KDC intended to remove one small segment of the 1.5 hr video which eqcfix.co.nz understands related to a comment about the ICNZ head, Tim Grafton, being a “wingnut” however this has not been confirmed, though not through lack of trying on eqcfix.nz’s part.
The presentation is available here https://www.eqcfix.nz/ under “Kaikoura Public Meeting”