One of the most astounding pieces of news I have heard recently relates to Vero’s assertion that they expect the tail of their claims to blow out until 2021. Yes 2021! Their original timetable was 2017. See http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/rebuilding-christchurch/7534785/Vero-announces-Chch-timetable. http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/business/7534817/Vero-aims-for-timetables-by-September. http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/news/christchurch-earthquake-2011/7545476/Why-the-long-wait-Veros-customers-ask. 2021 is eleven years after the first earthquake.
Eleven years!… How is it that the insurance industry is able to get away with such flagrantly deliberate and unreasonable time frames??… How do the affected Vero policyholders intend to live while they wait?… Families with young children, the elderly and the infirm, people paying rates, mortgages and rental accommodation…
Throughout the last four years I have struggled to come to terms with the lack of energy or perceived apathy on the part of many Christchurch residents in relation to their very obvious and audible discontent with the insurance industry. While there are those who are vocal, they are few in number. People are seemingly trying to tackle the problem on an individual basis rather than collectively. But the situation in Christchurch requires a collective response. As individuals our power to effect change is diminished – yet as a group we have extraordinary power. So often I hear the comment- no-one is listening to me/us. I believe that ‘they’ are not listening because they do not have to see us – individual insurance stories are lost amid the ever noisy stratosphere, the same noise behind which ‘they’ hide – we need to find a way to get noticed. Collectively we can do that, individually we cannot.
That is not to say that many of us have not tried. Certainly since this affair began, affected Cantabrians have occasionally taken to the streets – there have been protests about Tony Marriott’s obscene salary increase, the Christchurch City Council’s ineffectiveness, the implementation of charter schools and countless smaller company specific insurance protests. Yet as time has gone on, the numbers of people turning up to these protests has diminished. Though in recent times participation in information sharing fora has been very successful.
And certainly it is true that many of us after four and a half years of battling are tired, with barely enough energy to manage our new life situations let alone battle a seemingly unmoveable force. And the seemingly unmoveable force is well aware of the effect that both the earthquake trauma damage and their behaviour is having on the population – such a strategy produces positive economic consequences for them, it feeds their bottom line’ – people give up, abandoning property, accepting offers that are much lower than they should be, accepting property repairs that under normal circumstances they would not accept, taking payouts at less than the market value. I have heard countless stories of people who have ‘given up’.
Another large group appears to be concerned that if they are seen at a rally or protest their insurer may use this against them and further delay their claim. I do not think it matters whether your insurer identifies you or not, the insurance industry will simply carry on business as usual: pay out as little and as late as possible, or not at all if it can find the smallest reason to do so. Certainly at the moment there is no-one holding the industry accountable. It is uncertain though whether this can last much longer. Where is the political opposition in all of this?
Just how bad does it have to get before the rest of the country and the Government actually hear the cries for help and actually decide to assist. It seems to me, fairly clear that the Government has no interest in what happens to its citizens in times of catastrophe so it will be and has been, left to the citizens of Christchurch to arrange their own protection and defence.
Where is the media in all of this, yes New Zealand gets to hear the odd individual story via the news (no doubt because occasionally it makes a ‘great news story’ on a macro scale), but there are tens of thousands of great ‘micro’ news stories and those of us affected cannot wait for each story to be told and resolved through the telling. Do you not find it strange that as soon as a story is told (perhaps on TV3 – well done, John Campbell) the insurance industry suddenly finds a solution for these individual cases yet while the camera or reporter is not looking they simply sit very quietly and wait. A concerted and pointed media campaign is what is required – take the industry by the throat and don’t let go!
The lack of accountability which is applied to the insurance industry is utterly mind boggling!
I have been protesting since the quakes. I cannot see any other way of making it clear that I am not happy with corporate deceit and dishonesty. Change and help are required. The whole of New Zealand needs to be made thoroughly aware of what is taking place and need to realise that they too could find themselves facing the same insurance nightmare tomorrow.
Be sure I will be present at the next protest – will you??
~Future Proofing for a sustainable, participatory, democratic society.
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