EQC inquiry won't relitigate cases

An independent inquiry into the Earthquake Commission wants to hear from people who are unhappy...
An independent inquiry into the Earthquake Commission wants to hear from people who are unhappy with their experience with EQC. Photo: RNZ

An independent inquiry into the Earthquake Commission wants to hear from people who are unhappy with their experience with EQC, but will not relitigate past insurance settlements or claims.

Greater Christchurch Regeneration Minister Megan Woods announced the terms of reference for the inquiry in Christchurch yesterday.

Dame Silvia Cartwright has been appointed to lead the inquiry.

Dr Woods said the inquiry's aim was to make EQC better prepared to deal with any future events, which she said was a matter of when, not if.

It will focus on the handling of insurance claims by EQC and, as appropriate, other insurers.

Dr Woods said the inquiry will hear from interested parties who submitted and handled earthquake claims, and she expects many people who have been unhappy with the EQC process will want to make submissions.

However she said under the terms of reference, the inquiry would not have a role in considering past insurance settlements or current claims, or comment on previous decisions made by the courts on insurance-related matters.

"They can come and give their experiences but what the inquiry won't be doing is revisiting past decisions on individual claims.

"This is about learning from the collective experience of what people have been through in Canterbury.''

Dame Silvia said the process will not be a court hearing.

She said she would be seeking out people she feels she needs to speak to and encouraging people and institutions who want to contribute to get in touch.

"It will not be an inquiry about reputations or liabilities at all, but a way of finding out enough information to be able to make recommendations to the minister for improvements for the future.''

Dame Siliva said she would be happy to speak to the former Canterbury rebuild minister Gerry Brownlee if he wants to, but she does not yet know if she will be specifically seeking his involvement in the inquiry.

National Earthquake Commission spokesman Stuart Smith said the inquiry was welcome but it was unlikely to bring any new information to light.

"It has always been our view that an inquiry of this nature is unlikely to reveal any new information that hasn't already been revealed through the Auditor-General looking into how claims have been handled, the Ombudsman investigation into client rights and privacy or by the Chief Executive and chair of EQC's numerous appearances in front of Select Committee.

"The most important thing is that lessons are learned from how we responded to New Zealand's largest seismic event. We are confident these lessons have been learned,'' Mr Smith said.

The inquiry will give its first interim report to the Governor General by the end of June next year. 

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