“We haven’t got that much time left. Instead of doing things we enjoy like spending time with our grandchildren we have spent countless hours fighting our insurance company. We’ve been totally consumed by the whole thing and so much money has been wasted.” Matt O’Loughlin.
It has been a long wait but finally the day has come. On Monday March 4 (2013) the O’Loughlin’s take on the insurance industry (Tower Insurance). This case is the first to test the standard insurance stance on red-zone houses in a case which actually should have been fought between CERA and the insurance industry not private residents in the red zone (land deemed to be unable to be rebuilt upon). (See http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/news/christchurch-earthquake-2011/8057155/Pair-lead-red-zone-payout-test-case).
One of the major issues around the Christchurch ‘rebuild’ has been the Government /CERA ‘pay – outs’ of properties in the red zones at values based on 2007 Quotable Value figures in Christchurch and environs. These property values, to state the obvious, are now six years old! This has produced groups of ‘winners and losers’ in the city. For most, the package is not sufficiently equitable to allow citizens to buy an equivalent property elsewhere.
Some citizens have said they felt bullied into leaving their homes and most are unhappy with the offers. There is generally little confidence in the integrity of the Government offer. “The Government’s line was that the offer was fair because on average property prices fell by 5 per cent from 2007 – 2010. It is difficult to imagine the Government trying this out in Fendalton or Parnell. It would appear that the ‘powers that be’ can categorise and minimise people’s losses in any way they see fit, marginalising them further.” (from p 77 of The Christchurch Fiasco: the Insurance Aftershock and its Implications for New Zealand and Beyond).
In April 2012 CERA ruled out a review of the residential red zone despite homeowners challenging their decision to write-off their land. There is a government deadline for settlement of red zone land of April 2013, and the feeling of many is that private insurers are deliberately delaying these settlements, thereby forcing homeowners to accept the government offer which is well below what they are entitled to recover – forced eviction followed by compulsory land grab by Government. And you thought it couldn’t happen in Godzone – well think again.
Every day it is further reinforced that the current private insurance model has failed and continues to fail many Cantabrians. But for an arbitrary Government decision around the status of their land, they find themselves in a battle with their insurer- a battle which CERA should be fighting out with the private insurance industry, not private residents! After all it was CERA’s decision to declare the land ‘red-zoned’ and consequently worthless.
Instead of this deeply flawed process led by ‘corporate government’ complicity, there should be a judicial review of the actions taken by CERA to remedy the abuse of their statutory and prerogative powers. CERA as a Governmental body wields ‘great’ power and as such we the citizens have the right to impose on them special duties of procedural fairness that do not normally apply to private citizens, and they must follow particular rules about what organs of governance may do and decide. Because CERA in this situation has a monopoly over decision making in the region, the exercise of such powers is subject to ‘public accountability’ particularly in light of the impact they have on the lives of private individuals. CERA needs to be held accountable for its decisions. The legal fraternity in New Zealand should be watching with interest. Remember what happened when The Canterbury Earthquake Response and Recovery Act (CERRA) was established – within a fortnight 27 constitutional law experts from all six New Zealand law faculties issued an open letter detailing concerns about the breadth of the power granted, calling CERRA a “dangerous precedent”…
“there is a risk that the desire to do ‘everything we can’ in the short term will blind us to the long-term harms of our actions. In particular abandoning established constitutional values and principles in order to remove any inconvenient legal roadblock is a dangerous and misguided step. Yet this is what our Parliament has done, in just a single day, by unanimously passing the Canterbury Earthquake Response and Recovery Act 2010. It represents an extraordinary broad transfer of law making power away from Parliament and to the executive branch, with minimal constraints on how that power may be used“.
Once again we see CERA abandoning basic constitutional principles in the name of expediency or corporate government mandate…
I sincerely ask all you interested and affected folk to join the rally in support of Matt and Val as they take their Insurance Company to the Court – Monday, March 4 at 8:30am at 282 Durham Street between Armagh and Chester Streets (See http://www.facebook.com/events/146917518801762/).
Who knows – it might be your turn next……and only together will we prevail against this deliberate corporate fraud on the people of Christchurch.
If you are interested in donating to Val and Matt’s cause the details are: Fight Insurances REPAIR/REBUILD in the High Court: Kiwibank 389014 0404322 00.
Video of Valerie talking about their plight. https://vimeo.com/60787198/download?t=1362096977&v=148411325&s=6095cfb8049aad73e441fbf021d0292b
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