I know that no-one who experienced the 7.1 magnitude earthquake of September 4th 2010 will forget it. Striking as it did at an hour when most were asleep in their beds, we were awestruck by the forces involved and thankful that, although properties were damaged and services lost, most people escaped unscathed.
Sadly, of course, this was not the case on the 22nd of February the following year when Christchurch was hit by the violent 6.3 magnitude quake, which caused significant loss of life and many injuries as well as large-scale damage.
Here in Selwyn, eight years on from the Greendale fault rupture, most homeowners have had their homes repaired and broken belongings replaced by their insurer or the Earthquake Commission (EQC). In some cases, there have been disputes between insurance companies or EQC and homeowners regarding what should be repaired and how, and in a small number of cases these disputes are still ongoing.
For those who still have outstanding EQC claims, the Government’s Canterbury Earthquakes Insurance Tribunal is unlikely to be the answer some were hoping for. This is because the Tribunal can only decide on simple cases which are not already before the courts, ruling out the vast majority of EQC claims.
At the time of the Canterbury Earthquakes, 99 per cent of Red Zone homeowners were insured against a disaster, having taken out individual insurance policies. Some of those who received payouts for their damaged homes and land in the Residential Red Zone chose to purchase properties here in Selwyn. But what about those who didn’t have insurance?
Recently the Government announced that it will pay owners of uninsured properties in the Residential Red Zone 100 per cent of their pre-earthquake (2007/08) rateable value.
I think that many people would agree that this is fundamentally unfair to those property owners who did pay for their disaster insurance.
At the moment New Zealand has substantial cover for disaster insurance, with most building owners paying for disaster cover. This means that should we experience another event like the Canterbury Earthquakes, we are in a good position to respond and if necessary rebuild.
However, having the Government pick up the entire cost for those who hadn’t taken out their own insurance could set a concerning precedent. There is a real risk that more property owners will choose not to bother paying for disaster insurance and instead expect the Crown to bail them out in future.