THX 4 THE MEMORIES – Avonside photographic exhibition now online.

The 22nd of August 2013 was the official opening of the Avonside photography project Thx 4 the Memories exhibited along Worcester Street.

It consisted of photographs of Avonside people by Bridgit Anderson and Tim Veling along with snippets of their Red Zone experiences as recorded by Glen Busch (original post here).

Tim has put together an online book that recreates the exhibition and you can find it by clicking on the first link below. Eventually, once numerous obstacles are overcome, there will be a print version available.

Tim has a dedication and endurance second to none and continues to record what is happening where we once lived and how it will all eventually turn out. Tim has done other projects as well and the second link takes you to the projects part of his website.

Thx 4 the Memories

http://www.timjveling.com/thx-4-the-memories
then click on the book cover just below the video.

All Tim’s projects

http://www.timjveling.com/galleries

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Avonside photography project – Official opening of Thx 4 the Memories

Yesterday was the official opening of the Avonside photography project Thx 4 the Memories. I was invited to speak on behalf of Avonside, and the following are my notes which were pretty closely followed. What was said didn’t cover everything, but seemed right for the day. The things left unsaid are raised further down.

To Tim Veling, Bridgit Anderson and Glenn Busch (who is in France) For your integrity, insight, perseverance, sacrifice, ability and especially your circumspection you have no equal. Thank you very much. What you have achieved is a revealing, sensitive and intimate record of individual participants in a tragic event. Each record is an eyewitness account of the earthquakes and their aftermath. Collectively these accounts are something that will soon become tomorrow’s history. An important part of the historical record. Having said that, history is a perverse thing. Understanding other peoples’ history, in a different place or a different time, seems reasonably clear-cut. You can read about it, or watch a documentary. Important facts are laid out, key figures make their explanations, conclusions are easily reached. When you live in the middle of an historical event nothing is clear. We who live in Canterbury are experiencing the unfolding events quite differently to the way others measure or describe them. The important facts, key explanations and easy conclusions seem very distant from what we see and experience. So, what is the truth of our earthquake aftermath? Please look at the photographs and read the stories. For every Barbara, Judy or Shane, or any of the people who took part, there are hundreds and perhaps thousands of similar stories from those who have struggled in the Red Zones, and are struggling in the Green Zones and on the hills. Please read the stories, look at the people and where they lived. Hopefully you will find for yourself some of the truth of the times we have shared since the first earthquake. Thank you.

Of course there is much more to the truth of what has been experienced than that alluded to above. Many of the stories raise additional issues which I will try to summarise here. The first distorter of truth was the Christchurch City Council with it’s arrogant ineptitude, and inability to see past a  ‘business as usual” approach in a culture of non-disclosure. Insurers, their assessors, and the Insurance Council of New Zealand have espoused values and views we cannot understand from our perspective. Many of their truths are a dismissive contradiction of actual experiences. The government, Minister Brownlee’s office, have delayed and withheld, and continue to delay and withhold the release of information. At times there was the pretence we should be able to work it out for ourselves because it is “blindingly obvious”. Yet, what we can clearly see, what we experience day after day, the things that at times harm or destroy us, are carefully and wilfully unnoticed by them. Being unnoticed, there is no need to correct problems, or support those who are struggling. Being unnoticed there is no need to talk with communities about what is needed for a successful recovery. Their truths too are a dismissive contradiction of our experiences. Then there is EQC, the great Satan in our midst. What can be understood of all this? What is happening? Time and again, in my struggle to understand, the words of the late Justice Peter Mahon come to mind: an orchestrated litany of lies. So, what is the truth of our earthquake aftermath? Again, please look at the photographs and read the stories. That is where the truth is. .

AA Insurance – more on the July progress update

In my post on the 10th of August (here) the observation was made that nearly half the AA Insurance rebuilds had “been cashed settled which, on the face of it, suggests a full replacement policy isn’t all it was advertised to be.”

AA Insurance have been in touch with additional information from their Corporate Affairs office. Here is their response in full:

I have recently read your post titled  “AA Insurance progress update” and would like to offer you some background information about how we are settling our Christchurch home claims. 

AA Insurance has a full replacement HomeCover Policy.  If our customer is a rebuild, regardless of whether our customers choose to stay in our rebuild programme and rebuild or their current site, or take a cash settlement to rebuild on another site, the amount they receive is based on the full replacement cost.  The same principal is applied if our customer’s home is a repair.

We will provide our customers with the information for both options and they are able to choose what’s best for their individual situation. This cost is agreed upon by the customer and they are recommended to seek legal advice. Of the 326 customers that have taken a cash settlement for their home claim, most of them have properties in the red zone.

This additional information certainly provides a much clearer and more accurate picture of what has happened. It also helps crystalize the problem faced by those who were rebuilds in the Red Zone.

A significant issue still remains. Every insurer is a retailer offering a packaged deal. When a property owner buys house insurance from an insurer, any insurer, it is a one stop purchase. Sign the contract and you are covered for a whole range of listed damages. When you pay the insurance premium, part of the money is for fire services and EQC cover.

From a buyer’s point of view the one policy payment covers everything, and it seems a reasonable expectation that everything is covered to the same extent i.e. land as well as buildings.  If the house burns down, not only have you made a contribution to the costs of the fire brigade, you also get a replacement house. If there is an earthquake (or flood, or storm), you have paid for EQC who fix your land (or give you replacement land) and the house is repaired or replaced by EQC and the insurer.

Herein lies the problem. Once again EQC and the government represent the point at which problems arise. Under “normal” circumstances EQC would have sorted the issues with your piece of land by repairing or replacing it – this is EQC’s obligation under the EQ Act and the point where legally valid expectations are created.

This didn’t happen. Instead the government made land offers via CERA , offers which were insufficient for claimants to be reinstated to a situation substantially the same as they were before the earthquakes happened.  Anyone could have compared rateable land values and market values to see there was a significant gap. As CERA is well aware, a number of those who were, and some still are, stuck in the Red Zones found there was an insurmountable gap between what the government was offering and the market value of the sections becoming available.

So, to return to my initial point: a full replacement policy isn’t all it is advertised to be. This is not the fault any insurance company, rather the product of an assumption that EQC and successive governments would behave in accordance with legislation and the end result would be “full replacement” – a house with land. The simple seamless transaction at the selling side of policies breaks down when disaster strikes.

As the role of EQC is assessed it will be important to either reinforce or completely dispel the expectation that there will be a seamless full replacement or reinstatement of policy holders to their situation before the event occurred.

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EQC – Additional information posted on the Home Repair Programme page

EQC have added more important material to the Home Repair Programme page here. The headings for the additions are:

  • Find out more information about the Canterbury Home Repair Programme
  • Find out more about pre existing building issues
  • The issue of asbestos
  • Urgent repairs
  • Certificate of title notification

The last addition, notices on land titles, will have major insurance and re-sale ramifications for those who have a Section 74 notice placed on their Certificate of Title. The additions in full are below …

2. Find out more information about the Canterbury Home Repair Programme (CHRP)

The Canterbury Home Repair Programme (CHRP) is EQC’s managed repair programme for Canterbury homes with damage between $15,000 and $100,000 (+GST) per claim. On the CHRP page there is specific information:

  • what the CHRP programme is
  • about Fletcher EQR
  • a land structures factsheet
  • nominating your own contractor
  • beneffits of being in CHRP
  • the repair process under CHRP
  • identification
  • repair completion
  • complaints process
  • home repairs for the vulnerable
  • opting out of CHRP

3. Find out more about pre existing building issues

EQC has a dedicated team handling homes where pre-existing construction issues have been identified. To go directly to this page you can follow this link

4. The issue of asbestos

Find out how EQC is dealing with asbestos and we answer any questions you may have. The asbestos page can be directly accessed at this link.

5. Urgent repairs

Urgent (or ‘emergency’) repairs are repairs that are essential to make your home safe, secure, sanitary and weathertight. At this page you can find out about:

  • immediate actions
  • authorising urgent repairs yourself
  • is “liquefaction” an urgent repair

6. Certificate of title notification

Some property owners have a notification on their Certificate of Title (or ‘land title’) under Section 74 of the Building Act 2004, which indicates that the land is likely to be subject to a specified natural hazard (or hazards). This page will lead you to notifications relevant to this area.

EQC, floor levels and (in)competency

Yesterday Radio New Zealand (here) ran an item where EQC was accused of:

“employing unqualified surveyors to measure how level floors are – using inadequate measuring methods – and thousands of houses are being wrongly assessed.”

To this EQC spokesman Bruce Emson, said:

“the commission’s surveys are carried out by suitably qualified quantity surveyors and comply with all building and housing guidelines.”

Where does the truth lie? The two times our house was assessed, EQC used bog-standard builders to determine the state of the house. The first builder didn’t know how to use the laser level he had brought with him, and it took him nearly 30 minutes to get it operational. Once operating he measured only the easily accessed bits, despite offers to move furniture for him. This experience does not exist in isolation, so how can others know whether their property was accurately assessed by someone suitably qualified for the job? The first thing is to deal with the semantics of the EQC response. What exactly is meant by “suitably qualified quantity surveyors”? To me it is an response designed to mislead the public by confusing the issue. The criticism is that EQC has not had critical measurements made by professional surveyors – people trained in accredited institutions and professionally certified as competent to measure distances, heights, and slopes. In reply EQC have, for some time,  responded that they always use suitably qualified quantity surveyors. Herein lies the deception. EQC claims to uses quantity surveyors. Quantity surveyors are not highly trained to make accurate survey measurements, their training is in costing repairs and rebuilding projects.  They are not suitable people to measure floor levels. Not only that, but EQC are also coy on what is meant by “suitably qualified”.  Does this mean that they are members of the New Zealand Institute of Quantity Surveyors?  Unlikely, as the Institute only has about 150 members in the whole of New Zealand (see their website here). So maybe “suitable qualified” means something less formal – they have undertaken short EQC in-house or contracted training and that is good enough for the job? In the absence of clear evidence from EQC, it is valid and essential to act on the basis that until proven otherwise unsuitable people were involved in making assessments about your house. Your current and future housing wellbeing is quite likely in the hands of people with inadequate and unaccredited training and no professional qualifications. How to find out? Maybe the OIA? I appreciate that EQC are gaming the OIA system, and the Office of the Ombudsman seems to have neither the motivation nor the courage to challenge them head-on, however the OIA does provide one means of determining whether your assessment was carried out by a suitably qualified person. Using the OIA it would be reasonable to ask for a copy of the trade and/or professional qualifications held by the person who carried out the assessment(s) on your house. EQC will be tempted to use the privacy sections of the OIA to deny the request, however the whole purpose of trade and professional certification is to provide a public notice that the person awarded the certificate is suitably qualified for the work. Equally important, the whole process is also designed to warn that someone without the trade or professional certification is unfit or even prohibited from carrying out the work. There is no absolute provision under either the OIA or Privacy Act that prevents the disclosure of who carried out an assessment, nor what their formal qualifications and trade or professional certification or accreditations are. EQC and other agencies often seek to protect the privacy of natural persons, however there is no necessity for EQC to withhold the identity of the person who carried out an assessment. Unless someone works for the SIS it is not an offence to make known the name of an employee. As the assessors are carrying out their claimed trade, and in most cases as contractors, there are no compelling individual privacy issues. The assessor may wish to remain anonymous however that is not a compelling reason in itself.  It is an issue of significant public interest to know who is involved in carrying out assessments, especially if in the view of the public there are doubts as to the quality of the work being carried out and/or the calibre of those making the assessments. As a final point, trade and professional certification is a matter of public record (in the public domain) and so would fail the tests required to withhold the information. Of course EQC could claim not to have kept such records, which would be another indicator of their lack of integrity as an organisation. A second option may be available for those who are happy to pour a bit more money down the gaping maw of their solicitor.  Where EQC maintain that a proper assessment was done, but refuse to release specific information, they could be asked to provide a Statutory Declaration to the effect that properly trained and professionally recognised personnel were used in all assessments of the property.  Failure to oblige would be a sure sign of  guilt.