Delay warning over EQC On-sold repair plan

John Hamilton. Photo: Geoff Sloan
John Hamilton. Photo: Geoff Sloan
The ECQ’s On-sold programme offers salvation for many long-suffering homeowners a decade after the devastating Christchurch earthquakes – but they could face yet another wait if builders shy away from undertaking the remedial work.

With $300 million budgeted for the scheme, and 90 per cent of the 5954 applications processed by the EQC as of last week, the foundations of another building bonanza in the region should be set in stone.

But John Hamilton, president of Registered Master Builders Canterbury branch, has sounded a note of caution as property owners are poised to belatedly have damage missed by initial scopes repaired.

The influx of work sounds ideal for an industry already flat out in spite of the Covid-19 pandemic, though Hamilton warns many established local builders are cautious about becoming involved once applications are approved.

“I’m always quite wary of these government things, (look at) KiwiBuild, it never happened,” Hamilton said.

“Smart builders will sit back a little bit and see what comes out of it,” he said.

“The appetite from the builders for that type of work will be interesting because some of the guys probably didn’t enjoy some of the (initial) rebuild work.

“Some of the quality builders just couldn’t do the job the way they saw it should go.

“Now we’re in a situation where we’re having to go back and re-do all this work. It shouldn’t have been needed if we were able to do a really good job from the start,” he said.

“We found very early in the piece we would identify stuff but there was an argument about whether it was preexisting or earthquake-related.

“You were only allowed to target the earthquake work so you weren’t necessarily doing the whole job.

“You’re only piecemealing the repair,” he said, claiming builders arriving from outside the region were content with that scenario.

“They came into town looking for a gold rush and they didn’t really care if they were taking care of the whole project.

“They didn’t have any skin in the game. They were into getting the (job) signed off, getting paid and moving onto the next one but the guys that were in it for the long term weren’t happy signing off for work that was only partially fixed.”

EQC house repairs. Photo: File
EQC house repairs. Photo: File
Hamilton said some members would also give the programme a wide berth – himself included – due to the extra layers of compliance built in to the process.

“It’s hard enough dealing with the homeowner, and then you’ve got other voices (insurance company/project manager) coming into how you deal with the repair.

“You’ve got to try and protect yourself a wee bit so some builders will say ‘this is not where we see ourselves placed’.”

“We’ve also the additional pressures of people coming back from overseas. They’re looking at properties, buying them and deciding they need to do big (non earthquake-related) renovations.

“If you have a $500,000 renovation or earthquake repairs you know what you’re going to do don’t you?”

Meanwhile, EQC said settlement agreements had been finalised for 452 applicants by last week, including 240 redirected to standard EQC procedures; 83 repairs were complete and another 83 were under way.

To date 1163 applications were either ineligible, invalid or withdrawn.

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