It is early morning on March 4, 2013- today marks the two and a half year anniversary of the September 4, 2010 earthquake in Christchurch. A couple of days ago the Christchurch Press published an article about people beginning to openly show their dissatisfaction, a concerning development which I addressed in my previous blog. (see http://thechristchurchfiasco.wordpress.com/2013/03/03/eqc-and-the-private-insurance-industry-be-warned/). Cantabrians are demonstrating that enough is enough and the actions are becoming more and more dramatic – Mr. Jerry Larason is now on a hunger strike.
In the last two and a half years State Insurance has failed to settle Jerry Larason’s full replacement insurance claim and he has now had enough. I spoke to Jerry before he began his hunger strike and asked him what motivated him to take such drastic action. “I was getting angrier and angrier with the situation and had to find a way to express it peacefully.” When I spoke to him he looked composed and determined. He had seen his General Practitioner, spoken to legal advisors, the Council and was well aware and informed of the consequences of such a serious undertaking. But he feels he has no alternative and on the basis of ‘do no harm’ he felt that a hunger strike was the only action open to him.
He has been dealing with State Insurance since within a week or two of the September 4th earthquake after his home was severely damaged. He stated that he had numerous reports carried out and had asked State for a reasonable settlement which would allow him and his family to come out ‘whole’ but that State has procrastinated (despite some minor work having been carried out). He is totally disillusioned regarding the risk of the loss of his major asset. He went on to say “I have been told numerous times a resolution is coming and it never comes. Now they tell me that the engineering reports are outdated and they have to be redone- ‘laughable’. Enough is enough!“
When questioned about State Insurance he said “I’m talking to a brick wall. So here I am today, standing in front of that wall here at 12 Show Place, IAGs offices. I’m saying to State Insurance ‘get out here and start doing what you’re supposed to be doing’. Today I am not one shovel or one nail closer to having my house and my life rebuilt“.
“What I would also like to say is that this is not only about me. It’s about my community, the City and my country. If they carry me out in a box- sure it’s going to make a statement but I’m not looking for notoriety. As I see it, we’re all dying here slowly, its sapping our strength and strangling our financial positions. State Insurance is no stranger to watching its clients suffer so they’ll probably enjoy watching me suffer out their windows. Businesses are run by people, these people need to see what they’re doing to us. If I knew then what I know now I would never have insured with State Insurance. It is the responsibility of a government to ensure a better system to help us in times just like these. This is not good enough“.
Jerry went on to say that he has set up a table and people can come along and support or share their own stories with him.
It has come to a very sad situation in Christchurch when people feel that such drastic measures have to be taken in order to achieve what is contractually rightfully theirs. The fact that Jerry has been driven to such extreme measures is something that we in New Zealand should all take to heart and reflect upon because this is really an alarming circumstance. We have already seen the signs with EQC. (See http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/8372157/EQC-workers-bullied-by-angry-homeowners). Then there was the situation with the man who threatened to set himself alight in Hagley Park because of the pressures the insurance industry was causing him and his family. We will begin to see escalating incidents. When people are frustrated they take desperate action – potentially life threatening actions. How much more of this do we have to sustain before there is a serious incident? I believe that we are only seeing the tip of an unseen iceberg – an iceberg the country would rather not see and an iceberg the Government is conveniently ignoring. This is proving to be a very black chapter in New Zealand’s history.
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