Earthquake Recovery Symposium

Greater Christchurch Regeneration Minister Megan Woods has announced an earthquake recovery symposium to be held in November. There is a news release concerning this on the Council’s website here.

The news item in Tuesday’s Press says it “… will be held on November 29 and 30 at the University of Canterbury. Up to 250 people from the public, private, community and academic realms will be invited.” Mayor Lianne Dalziel is quoted as saying the symposium will be preceded by a series of workshops.  The full article is on the Press website here .

Maybe my opinion is unduly cynical but it seems to me this is yet another high-risk situation. Many of the principle participants may be serial symposium and conference attendees, rather than practical and experienced people. If so it could end up being a talk-fest for a range of folk who neither directly experienced the after-effects of the earthquakes, nor made a valuable contribution to the recovery effort. Minister Woods is quoted by the Council:

“The Symposium will be an event of national importance, sharing lessons from the Canterbury earthquakes so that New Zealand as a whole can be better prepared in future for any similar natural disasters,” Dr Woods says.

“The Canterbury earthquakes were unprecedented. They provide us with many valuable lessons, which we continue to review and learn from to ensure our communities are more resilient and prepared.

While these people will have something to share, can we be sure about how well the lessons are understood? Such sharing is premature in the absence of substantial external investigations into how well various agencies performed. Some time this year EQC will be up for scrutiny, which is good. However we still await investigation into the performance of CERA, private insurers, Council, and the health system. How can we learn from our experiences if only official respectful, constructive, and forward-focused versions of events are available? Will, with the passage of time, institutional memories be created of heroic and insightful efforts to the exclusion of inconvenient realities? What harm will that do in misinforming future recovery efforts?

And what of Mayor Dalziel’s workshops? Is this a polite way of saying the experiences and knowledge of the ordinary person will funnelled into well managed groups where minders with flipcharts, or sticky notes to put on the wall, will record what is said, promising it will be relayed to the higher-ups? Hopefully Minister Woods will ensure that those who experienced it all first hand, the workers who fixed the problems, the scientists who walked through the silt, the medical professionals who handled the harm, will have an influential and undiluted voice.

As an aside, Minister Brownlee cancelled an earlier proposed symposium in November 2016. A Press article about the cancellation (here) stated “Fifty-one speakers, including overseas attendees, had been confirmed and “speaker guidelines” were produced to ensure a “respectful, constructive, and forward-focused event”. Among those invited to speak were ” … Prime Minister John Key, Sir Peter Gluckman, former EQC boss Ian Simpson and numerous international experts.” Dinner was to be held at the Tannery. A really experienced and well-informed bunch? Will it be a similar cast of characters this year?

Red Zone Futures Exhibition

Regenerate Christchurch have opened a public exhibition showcasing the big picture ideas they have developed for the Christchurch red zones. The exhibition is at 99 Cashel Street and runs 7 days a week until the 30th of June. Opening hours are on the exhibition website here..

Residential Red Zone offer feedback sought

CERA is seeking feedback on their Preliminary Draft Residential Red Zone Offer Recovery Plan. Comments must be submitted by 5.00pm on the 19th of May. The Draft plan starts off by explaining the “why?”.

The purpose of developing the ‘Residential Red Zone Offer Recovery Plan’ is to assist the Crown (through the Chief Executive of the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (“CERA”)) to determine whether it should make new offers to buy vacant, commercial and uninsured properties in the residential red zone and, if so, how such offers should be structured.

However, before the plan there has to be a draft plan.

This is the Preliminary Draft Recovery Plan, notified for public consultation on 5 May 2015. This Preliminary Draft is the first opportunity for everyone to provide their views. You do not have to be an affected property owner or live in greater Christchurch to have a say. This public consultation is an important first step. The Preliminary Draft is in essence a discussion document, which sets out the key contextual information and developments. It focuses on the key questions the Crown will need to consider about the vacant, commercial and uninsured red zone properties, and it asks for your views. It does not predetermine what any final Crown offer will
be.

A copy of the draft plan is available here and you can make an online submission part way down the page here. There are two pages of information designed to explain what is happening and why. Click on the page name shown in red to go to that page.

  1. Public to have say on red zone offers – background to the court case over payments to some living in the Red Zones, the court ruling, how this process is designed to ensure all who are affected (directly or indirectly) and how to have your say.
  2. Questions and Answers – a series of questions, with supporting answers, to help clarify what is going on. The questions are:
    • What was the decision made by the Supreme Court?
    • What is a ‘Recovery Plan’?
    • What is the Residential Red Zone Offer
    • Recovery Plan – Preliminary Draft?
    • Why do you need me to comment?
    • Will this Recovery Plan decide what the offer will be?
    • What happens next?

The Cabinet Paper setting up this exercise is here. .

Insurance Ombudsman wants insurance legislation to cover non-disclosure of information

The Insurance Business New Zealand website is reporting that the Insurance and Savings Ombudsman Karen Stevens supports legislation to better protect customers relating to information they disclose to an insurer. The following are extracts from the article (the full article is here).

Karen Stevens says legislation would mean an insurer could only avoid a policy where it could show the non-disclosure was deliberate.

Some cases are clear, where people deliberately leave out information they were asked to provide, knowing that it will go against them. However, in other cases, people accidentally leave out information because they have forgotten, or do not realise it is important.” The current law requires a consumer to disclose to an insurer all information a ‘prudent underwriter’ would consider important. But, said Stevens: “This is extremely difficult for consumers to understand. “My concern is that consumers don’t understand the consequences of not providing the information. However, she said: “Industry self-regulation is not enough on its own. We need to review the law and make changes to stop consumers getting themselves into a situation where they are uninsured and, in many cases, uninsurable in the future.”

Later in the article the views of Insurance Council of New Zealand CEO Tim Grafton are aired. These include the following:

“Tim Grafton, CEO of the Insurance Council of New Zealand, maintained the New Zealand was, in fact, one step ahead on the subject. So, we have no problem about addressing this issue – indeed we are ahead of the curve.  What is important here is insurers’ approach and the new Code addresses the issue.”

Tim Grafton’s comments are not, in my view, an accurate reflection of the situation. As mentioned in some detail on this blog (17th of March here) the Fair Insurance Code does not come close to the lead set elsewhere, especially the U.K., with regards to information disclosure. New Zealand legislation based upon the U.K.’s Consumer Insurance (Disclosure and Representations) Act 2012 is where we should start. Insurers in New Zealand have not shown themselves to be trustworthy, and are certainly quite unsuitable candidates for self regulation where so much is at stake for the general public. .