Almost six years have passed since the beginning of my struggle to settle our claim with IAG Insurance. In those years our earthquake experience turned into an insurance nightmare. One of the ways in which I chose to cope with the struggle was to write about what I and others around me were experiencing and to share those experiences and insights that I gained during that time. Many thousands of people have faced insurance issues throughout Christchurch City and the wider environs. Now, six years later, the time has come for me to redirect my focus and in doing so my husband and I have decided to move back overseas. I take the liberty and opportunity to share that decision with you as well, because this individual experience has become part of a shared story. There have been and there are still thousands of us who have struggled and grappled with insurance claim settlement.
In the past six years I put whatever energy I had into struggling to get my own insurance claim settled while at the same time assisting to the best of my ability, all those who were and are still facing the many difficulties that have come with the insurance aftermath. The dishonesty and the inefficiencies that surfaced, created circumstances for most of us, we never expected to have to face in our lifetimes. In the process I was happy with my designated role as ‘trailblazer’ and advocate.
As most of you are aware, I have carefully chronicled the history of events in
Christchurch in the now second edition of my book ‘The Insurance Aftershock: the Christchurch Fiasco Post –Earthquake 2010-2016’ (See http://amzn.to/2carjVg). I did so in the knowledge that when New Zealand experiences another such earthquake there will be a reference book for those affected, to turn to. I leave Christchurch with the knowledge that, from the affected populations’ point of view, New Zealand as a whole and the current National Government in particular, has handled the aftermath of the Christchurch earthquakes extremely poorly. There has been a profound lack of openness and transparency from both the insurance industry, the government and national media in relation to the performance, regulation (or lack of it) and legislation of the insurance industry in this country.
I maintain that in the past six years the population of Christchurch has seen very little change in culture or behaviour from the insurance industry nor of the increasingly neo-liberal government. In my opinion it is behaviour that matters so much more than framework and structure. We need to look at the people behind the facts and figures and hold them to account. It is the leaders of these organizations who are responsible and ultimately accountable for improving the behaviour of their institutions toward affected citizens; organisations such as the EQC and the insurance companies. Clearly the culture within some of these institutions is sorely lacking and this ultimately affects the overall organizational performance toward its clients. This is responsible for creating and endorsing the kind of inefficiencies and unethical behaviour so many in Christchurch have been confronted with. An early intervention on part of the government could have corrected this at the outset. However matters were left ‘to the market’.
Needless to say, the major insurers in Christchurch have taken a profound reputation ‘hit’ and will have to work hard to restore confidence amid the population. If they are to maintain any kind of credibility they will have to regain the respect of the consumer – this is likely to take a generation or two.
The Christchurch I leave today is a city finally showing some signs of renewal. It is unbearably slow, and for many it is not yet happening in their neighbourhood, but some progress is being made in the Central Business District. To recover from a natural disaster takes time and requires a steep learning curve for many. We have all become wiser. As consumers we no longer take what our insurers ‘decide’ as gospel. We have had to resort to actions we might never have expected e.g. legal action. To take EQC and our insurers to Court is not for the fainthearted. For many it has been both financially and emotionally exhausting. It has been undeniably tough. Nevertheless we know that major change comes with great personal sacrifice. I genuinely believe that our efforts have not been wasted.
Over the course of time I look forward to returning to a more vibrant city that has managed to reinvent itself.
I leave Christchurch with the memory of a traumatic experience, of a post-quake city which reminds me of the lack of transparency by agencies involved with recovery. Each in their own manner – the City Council, the Earthquake Commission, Government, the former Christchurch Earthquake Recovery Authority and the private insurance industry have contributed to the prolonged process of recovery we are experiencing. To name a few:
- The changes to assessment standards and the unjustified and unnecessary use of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s ‘minimum guidelines’ to diminish the value of settlements;
- The absence of a legislated time frame for resolution of claims http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/83747426/Chaos-as-lawyers-scramble-ahead-of-IAG-cutoff;
- The questionable performance and obvious vested interests of many professionals involved in assessments e.g. engineers and loss adjustors and lawyers acting for insurers;
- Highly questionable apportionment issues between EQC and private insurers;
- The general lack of good faith in dealings with the affected population;
- A lack of transparency around the policy concerning future water levels and the increased future flood risk.
As I leave Christchurch I notice that everyday a steady stream of people are joining the face book page Christchurch Earthquake Dodgy Repairs. It saddens me to know that problems from undervalued settlements and ‘shoddy repairs’ are going to be a reality for many Christchurch families for the years to come.
I feel incredibly sorry for all those people and their families still having to negotiate their way through these problems. I would really encourage you to work together wherever that is possible. There is tremendous strength in numbers.
Finally, I want to thank you all for your support, your communication and your interest in my blog these past six years. It has been a privilege. My experiences in Christchurch and your responses have encouraged me to continue to work professionally in the field of organizational ethics. So do watch this space.
May the City of Christchurch thrive, and may all your problems find resolution. Go well in the knowledge that those of you who have made your voices heard have already gone some way to contributing to changing the course of future events in New Zealand.
Kia Kaha,……..stand tall and all the very best,