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ICNZ welcomes Canterbury Earthquakes tribunal but raises concerns about process and quality

01 Aug 2018

The Insurance Council of New Zealand welcomes the introduction of a Bill to Parliament today to establish a Canterbury Earthquakes Tribunal because it hopes it will accelerate claim settlements. “The people of Canterbury have been waiting too long to get their lives back on track after the 2010-2011 earthquakes. This tribunal will hopefully be a meaningful step in getting them there,” said ICNZ Chief Executive, Tim Grafton.

But the Council is also expressing disappointment with several points from the announcement. “First, that the tribunal won’t be up and running until 2019, the best part of 18 months since the Government was elected,” said Grafton. “It will have been nearly 9 years since the first quakes, far too long by anyone’s measure to be finally trying to sort this out. Insurers want to settle their customers’ claims as quickly as possible but we’re still receiving, on average, two claims a day from EQC.”

“Second, we have concerns with the way the tribunal is proposed to be run. It will not allow insurers to bring cases, only policy-holders. This is unfair as it only deals with one half of the problem and the Ministry of Justice agrees, saying it creates inequity of access to justice. Some Cantabrians appear stuck, unable to make decisions and move their claims forward due to the enormity of the changes the earthquakes have wrought on their lives. A tribunal that allowed both sides to bring claims would be fair and balanced and truly working towards the goal of helping everyone find resolutions and move forward from the quakes.”

“Third, that the Minister and the Ministry have failed to engage with key stakeholders on this issue. While the Government’s own agencies, EQC and Southern Response, account for the majority of outstanding claims, neither they nor private insurers were consulted on this Bill before its introduction. We were given an undertaking that would happen and that has not been followed through on. We have sought repeatedly to engage with the Minister on this process but according to his own advice he and the Ministry have spoken only to Treasury.”

“Finally, we are keen to be certain that the tribunal will respect the rules of natural justice and fair procedure, the need to apply the rules of evidence, to be bound by precedent, and the ability to appeal significant points of law. Any Bill that does not respect these legal principles will not be supported by the insurance sector.”

“The people of Canterbury deserve better than a tardy process that fails the test for best practice policy development.”

Published 1 August, 2018