"Highlighting the inadequacies of the way in which the earthquakes of 2010-2012 were handled by the insurance industry! "

Dear Prime Minister, Hon Brownlee, Hon Smith [with the utmost urgency]- post by Adrian Cowie (Registered Surveyor)

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Incorrect legal boundaries have the potential to cause “catastrophic consequences” for Cantabrians. Licensed Cadastral Surveyor and registered professional surveyor Adrian Cowie, of Topografo Limited, claims Land Information New Zealand (LINZ) is approving surveys that place property boundaries in their incorrect locations. Lateral spreading and lateral stretching as a result of the earthquakes, has caused buildings, land and fencing to move horizontally, in turn disrupting legal boundaries. Licensed Cadastral Surveyors who survey boundaries for rebuilds of new homes are “increasingly placing the new boundary marks” in the incorrect location.

The consequences are potentially catastrophic. Insurers relying on new boundary marks may be forced to demolish new houses, homeowners are revictimised, neighbours lose land that is rightfully theirs and EQC Land Claim have the issue of shifting the land back to its original position. The amount of land movement means that it has become challenging for surveyors to determine where property boundaries lie. However legal boundaries as defined by land titles have not changed.

The Law Society plans to discuss the current frameworks that are in place and whether there is in fact a problem.

This is the letter Mr Adrian Cowie wrote to the Prime Minister and others:

Dear Prime Minister, Hon Brownlee, Hon Smith [with the utmost urgency]
You will be well aware of the Surveyor General’s (of LINZ) presentation this afternoon in Christchurch.  
In this meeting he has brought in new Survey Guidelines that are effective immediately and that will have a significant impact on many people in Christchurch and Canterbury.
In this presentation, he re-itereated the Common Law that the legal boundary does not move when shallow surface land movement occurs (e.g. landslides, lateral spread, etc).
This affects many parts of Christchurch such as the Lower Slopes of the Port Hills, and suburbs adjacent to waterways and the ocean (e.g. Sumner, Redcliffs, Brighton, Fendalton, Burwood, Wainoni, Southshore, Kaiapoi, etc).
For the last 4 years EQC has assessed and settled claims without taking into account this shallow surface land movement, even though it was well known that it had occurred and what the legal implications were.
The EQC and private insurance that the homeowners had in place was to protect them from this very type of event, however, it seems that the risk has, in many cases, been transferred back to the homeowner.
What this means, is that in years to come, it will be the homeowner that has to pay the costs to have their house, fences, driveways and garage moved back into the correct position.  This is a risk transfer back to the homeowner – for the very risk that they took out insurance for in the first case.
I am requesting that you instruct EQC, Southern Response and ALL Insurers to place an immediate halt on the settlement of all insurance claims until the position of the house and site features can be accurately determined in relation to the legal boundary.  Only then can the correct repair/rebuild strategy be determined.
In summary, I consider that you need to do the following immediately (that is, on Thursday 19th February 2015):
  1. place a hold on the settlement of ALL insurance claims that are currently being processed until it can be accurately established what impact land movement has had on the Insured property;
  2. immediately instigate an independent (that is, independent) audit into ALL of EQC’s practices, assessment methods, expertise of their consultants;
  3. immediately instigate an independent audit into LINZ to determine why it has taken them 4 years to address this problem.  I consider in fairness, that 12 months should have been ample time.
  4. initiate a complete re-assessment of all House and Land claims that both EQC and Southern Response have already settled in the areas of this movement.
  5. outline clearly why it has taken the Government 4 years to address this issue, when many surveyors knew immediately after the earthquakes what the impact would be.
I consider that the home and landowners of Christchurch and Canterbury should be entitled to know the truth.  However, it seems that repeatedly, the truth is not forthcoming.
Below, I note my email to you about the Tonkin and Taylor Stage 3 Land Report.  Your Surveyor General answered my question today.  That is, the Tonkin and Taylor Stage 3 Land Report is incorrect.  It is wrong.  It shows the legal boundary moving with the land.  The boundary doesn’t.  What is more, surveyors knew this 4 years ago.  LINZ and the Government also knew this.  The Government also knew of the massive legal and insurance implications of this.
I look forward to your attention to this matter.  It is of grave importance.  It is imperative that you, as the leaders of this Nation, ensure that the people that had insurance obtain what they are legally entitled to.
In defence of Land Information New Zealand, I consider their approach to provide a solution to be a generally good, and it has my support.  However, I question why it has only come now, when the bulk of insurance claims have been settled.  This should have been dealt with within 12 months of the 22 February 2011.  However, it is now 4 years (48 months) later, and only now are the public entitled to the truth.  For many, the truth has come too late, and they will have to now fund to fix the problem, rather than EQC and the Insurers.
I consider that Minister Brownlee, EQC, and Land Information New Zealand need to clearly articulate why this critical and obvious problem has been left until the bulk of the insurance claims have been settled.
As always, I am available to meet you to discuss these issues further.”

Author: Sarah-Alice Miles

Love to write, create and watch the clouds move across the sky - these days in the Netherlands. 'Art allows us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time'.

One thought on “Dear Prime Minister, Hon Brownlee, Hon Smith [with the utmost urgency]- post by Adrian Cowie (Registered Surveyor)

  1. ” It is imperative that you, as the leaders of this Nation, ensure that the people that had insurance obtain what they are legally entitled to.”
    Here lies the problem, the public only think they have insurance, while in the east of ChCh, we know different.


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