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EQC pledges improved response after failings

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New Zealand’s Earthquake Commission (EQC) says it is continuing to overhaul its operating model following failures identified after the devastating Canterbury earthquakes.

The state-owned organisation formally apologised in its annual report released last week for “compounding the stress of customers” affected by the devastating 2010-11 Canterbury earthquakes.

EQC is the subject of a public inquiry into its response following the quakes, and says it has already incorporated improvements into its operations.

“We still have changes to make to improve our readiness,” Chairman Michael Cullen said.

“This work will take into account lessons learned from previous natural disaster events, and findings from the public inquiry once these are known.”

The inquiry, chaired by Dame Silvia Cartwright, is due to deliver recommendations by the end of March. Findings will draw on 972 written submissions received and feedback from public forums across the country.

Sir Michael says EQC was slow to adapt and respond to changing circumstances during the unprecedented Canterbury events and was not as easy to deal with as it should have been.

“We recognise the shortcomings in our response to the Canterbury earthquake sequence, and that they have had a significant negative effect on our customers, their families, the wider Canterbury community and our staff,” he said.

“For that we unreservedly apologise.”

The annual report says 84% of remaining Canterbury claims open at June 30 last year were resolved, against a target of 98%, leaving 556 of those claims remaining.

Total claims open fell to 2588 at the end of June this year from 4800 a year earlier, in a period when about 6600 claims were reopened and about 8200 reopened claims were resolved.

Improved case management saw 80% of reopened claims processed and closed within six months.