Tuesday, June 21, 2016

'Strong demand' for earthquake insurance service continues

An insurance service for Christchurch earthquake claimants has asked for more money as "strong demand" from homeowners continues. 
The Residential Advisory Service (RAS) was established in 2013 to help Canterbury homeowners deal with Earthquake Commission (EQC) and insurance claims. 
Three years on, its main funder says the number of homeowners looking for help because of second-time home repairs is on the up. 
Canterbury homeowners at a public meeting about legal action against the Earthquake Commission.
Canterbury homeowners at a public meeting about legal action against the Earthquake Commission.
While RAS had secure funding until the end of the year, the number of new cases being opened was putting "significant pressure" on its budget, a report from Christchurch City Council staff said. RAS wants $50,000 from the Christchurch Earthquake Mayoral Relief Fund to help with daily operations through to the end of December.
If the grant is approved, the $8 million relief fund will be completely exhausted. 
RAS is funded by the Insurance Council of New Zealand, EQC, the council and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE). 
Last year, the council approved a $50,000 grant and in 2014 it approved a $100,000 grant, well short of the $486,285 requested by the service at the time.
​An MBIE spokeswoman said there had been 1185 new cases accepted by RAS in the 2015-16 financial year, which ended in May. RAS had taken on 79 new cases since then, she said. 
Asked if second-time repairs were becoming more common, she said RAS had noticed an increase in homeowners contacting the service about remedial work.
"While the number of contacts are reducing following the peak in the 2014-15 year, we are currently receiving between 65 and 75 contacts per week," she said. 
The service was not seeking funding past the end of the year, she said.
RAS was still taking new cases, she said, despite the council report saying no new cases had been accepted since January. 
Burwood-Pegasus councillor Glenn Livingstone said although the first earthquake was almost six years ago, insurance woes persisted in Christchurch.  
"I think [RAS] is a worthwhile cause . . . and it seems reasonable to me that we ensure that it's able to help people resolve their insurance claims." 
Shirley-Papanui councillor and advocate for insurance claimants Ali Jones said a greater focus on advocacy was needed "now more than ever". 
She believed EQC and insurers should have given more money to RAS than they did.
"Many of the issues people have had to go to RAS for assistance with were and continue to be related to ineptitude within those organisations," she said.
The fund has provided grants to about 70 projects since mid-2011. 
They include:
Earthquake Memorial = $1 million
Christchurch City Mission = $294,434
Aviva = $500,000
Banks Peninsula War Memorial = $195,794
Isaac Theatre Royal = $300,000
The Loons Theatre = $250,000
Christchurch City Council (various projects) = $1.5m

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