ISBN: 978-0-473-35012-3 (Kindle); ISBN: 978-0-473-35010-9 (Softcover);
This is a book about the management and recovery of catastrophe at a National level.
The aftermath of the Christchurch earthquakes (2010-2012) in New Zealand offered me a rare opportunity to examine the national policies and effectiveness of Government funding and management of catastrophe on a national scale. My findings are both surprising and disturbing. The slow and confused recovery phase led me to examine the insurance industry, locally and globally. This has revealed a clear pattern of corporate greed at the expense of citizens and has shown that the profit-driven model of private insurance can, and very often does, fail those who have paid-up policies based on “good faith” responses that are their due. This is not a book about idealistic sociological concepts, but a revelation of actual Government administrative failure and financial risk-taking, in concert with corporate malfeasance. It is a book every homeowner, policy-maker, politician, local-government official, Treasury official and economist, should read. This is a story the wider media chooses not to publicize and consequently few people outside Christchurch are aware of the extent of the ongoing insurance battles. These are the same insurance battles fought by citizens the world over after similar catastrophic events. The opportunistic behaviour of the insurance companies together with the lack of transparency and integrity within these corporations, is compounded by the failure of corporate watch-dogs, such as government, the legal system and regulators, all of whom have failed to protect the public interest after the recent events. In the background, behind closed doors, are the strategic alliances and the networked relationships between Government, corporates, professionals and other major stakeholders with the object of profit. The interests and voices of the policyholder and homeowner are conveniently ignored and the lack of redress is well understood by these arguably complicit parties. The book discloses the failures and fallacies of current disaster management strategies, not only in terms of the huge financial implications but also the management of the ‘recovery’ phase. I also examine international experiences of catastrophe from the viewpoint of government policies and funding strategies. I point to a fundamental conflict of interest between corporatism and the need for rapid recovery in the interests of both the affected public, business interests and the economy. Also discussed are the tensions between National and Local government objectives and the unheard voice of the local population. I make comment on the limited efficacy of Civil Law and associated means of redress as protection against systematic corporate breach-of-contract and bad-faith, both in New Zealand and overseas. A need for fundamental change in disaster management is obvious from the findings of this work and I propose a viable, efficient revision of the means to achieve that objective – one which eliminates the current state of financial risk and susceptibility to Corporate subversion.
So what is new in the 2nd edition?
~New is a chapter chronicling the events of 2013 and 2014.
~New is a chapter chronicling the events of 2015.
~New is the demonstration of how the issue of governance and the relationship with stakeholders has become more and more complex and how it has challenged both citizen recovery and democracy itself.
~New is a revision of the issues related to the property assessments by EQC and the private insurance industry.
~New is an account of the rise in the numbers of claims reaching the courts and the introduction of class-actions and some thoughts on why so many of the victimized population failed to take legal action.
~New is the account of the failure of the insurance companies to meet their self-imposed deadlines and how they changed their policies away from repair and rebuild to cash settlement, leaving people underfunded to fix properties themselves.
~New is my conclusion that there is no evidence of change in regulation or legislation to ensure that insurance timeframes are shortened. Still, five years on, thousands have unresolved claims or claims that will have to be reassessed and repairs that will continue on, well into the future.
~New is commentary on the discussion about the risks involved in properly future-proofing the infrastructure of the City, including heritage buildings.
~New is the discovery of the quick fixes which were essentially shoddy repairs. These have now resulted in repairs of the repairs and reassessment of scopes of work having to be done, despite citizens having pointed out the risks early on – yet authorities failed to heed the call.
~New is further comment regarding the use of the Ministry of Buisness, Innovation and Employment Guidelines and the way this has affected the repair and quality of rebuilds as well as settlements for policyholders, in effect paving the way for structural repairs to be assessed as ‘cosmetic’ repairs.
~New are a series of contributions from key members of the public who have contributed their time and energy in putting forward policyholder’s perspectives based on their experiences.
~New is an account of the discussion about the conflicts of interest between professionals working for insurers and the wording of individuals’ insurance contracts.
~New is the ‘sum insured’ debate, the policy change which led to this measure and what it will ultimately mean for homeowners in the event of another major earthquake.
~New is a comprehensive referencing of original materials in order to assist the reader and researcher to go to the original source for further detail.
~New is a revision of my opinions of the way in which certain events and processes have changed over the course of the past five years.
~New is a new conclusion with a summation of the issues that have arisen and those that require further reflection by the nation and which should be conducted as an inclusive conversation.
Review of 1st Edition
In a Civil Society there must be collaboration, openness, ethics, trust and democratically accountable structures at all times but especially after a country has experienced a natural disaster. In Christchurch, post-earthquakes, there has been a systemic failure by both Central and Local Government to meet the demands of the Christchurch, Canterbury and New Zealand communities for tangible solutions and evidence of a comprehensive commitment to this Civil Society. Central Government is mindlessly committed to disaster capitalism, seemingly often without the parameters of ethical and accountable sound policy. A dark cloud has descended over Christchurch called “Westminster politics” with black and white decisions being imposed on a weary population. Central Government has set the rules and all sectors have to keep them. This book clearly highlights these poor decisions and lays them out for all to see. I recommend this book to all as it promotes openness and the need to address issues which both the public and private sectors have to get right, now and in the future. Garry Moore, Mayor of Christchurch 1998-2007
I have never met Sarah Miles, but am looking forward to doing so. Anyone who writes a book like this in the climate engendered by the present government requires courage. My colleagues and I have been calling for transparency and accountability, along with open engagement with affected communities, since the first earthquake. Sarah has started to turn the spotlight on the struggle many Christchurch people have been left to endure alone. When the Prime Minister came here and said he would stand by the people of Christchurch, they expected more than to be abandoned to deal with EQC and multi-national insurers all by themselves. When he said no-one would be worse off, they probably thought there was a bit of political rhetoric in what he said, but they didn’t expect to be out of pocket by six-figure sums. We need to learn from this disaster, so that it is never repeated. But to learn, we need to know the truth. Congratulations Sarah for having the courage to tell the truth and for offering some ideas for the future of catastrophe cover. We need to debate these issues openly and honestly. Thank you for getting the ball rolling. Lianne Dalziel, Current Mayor of Christchurch 2014 (See https://vimeo.com/55403128)
As we in Christchurch have suspected, the private insurers’ primary relationship is not with us, the insured, it is with their re-insurers. We need an insurance plan for when New Zealand’s Alpine Fault erupts, the social and economic well-being of communities in New Zealand and beyond is dependent on it. Subjecting the community to this current insurance fiasco is unacceptable. Glenn Livingstone, Christchurch City Councillor
This book is the real and shocking story of the Canterbury Earthquake disaster. The Plot: how our own Government left Cantabrians to be devoured by Corporate Insurance Companies who ran to the fine print in our policies to minimise their contractual obligations. Sarah has the facts and insight into these black years in New Zealand’s history. Kiwis must read this book!! Rev. Mike Coleman (See https://vimeo.com/55396555)
It will be for local authorities and national governments to act for the greater good – the honest and full protection of the nation’s citizens. I commend the book to all New Zealanders and Australians. Herman Wijffels, Professor of Sustainability and Social Change at Utrecht University, The Netherlands
~Future Proofing for a sustainable, participatory, democratic society.