Hundreds protest over quake insurance delays

Photo / Geoff Sloan
Photo / Geoff Sloan

Organisers of a protest in Christchurch's cathedral square this afternoon are calling for an external review of the way the Earthquake Commission has handled claims.

Almost 1,000 Christchurch residents attended today's rally around lunchtime to vent their frustration over insurance delays.

The timing of the protest is symbolic - just a day out from the fifth year anniversary of the February 2011 earthquake.

Protesters participated in chants, song, and were handed chalk so they could decorate the square with messages of their choosing.

One woman was cheered on by the crowd, as she danced in front of the stage holding a Gerry Brownlee puppet.

"This recovery for so many thousands of people in Christchurch has been the most appalling mess I've ever seen," said MC Mike Coleman.

Reading from a 'list of demands,' Coleman called on private insurers and EQC need to settle all claims by the end of March this year.

"That is six weeks. Or should I say that is five years and six weeks".

He stressed that the protest had no political agenda.

However, pictures were placed at the front of the stage of John Key, Gerry Brownlee, Insurance Council CEO Tim Grafton, and EQC boss Ian Simpson to symbolise their absence.

Christchurch resident Claire Payne was at the protest.

She is among thousands still waiting to settle with EQC.

"I've gone through anger. I just want them out of my lives. I want to move on".

"I want to be able to do basic maintenance to my house again which we haven't been able to do because they say we're painting over evidence," she said.

Another resident, Patricia, sat quietly on a seat not far from the stage.

Beside her sat a pole which she had dressed up with her 85-year-old husband's shirt and hat.

He couldn't be at today's protest, due to how 'frail' he is, she said.

"And the depression that the stress is causing him is making it worse".

"Maybe they're hoping some of us just die off and they don't have to worry... That's what it feels like".

The Insurance Council has chosen to respond by raising several hypothetical questions.

"First of all, who is going to pass the law to require all contracts to be settled by the 31st of March?" said CEO Tim Grafton.

"If you set a deadline, what if [both parties] disagreed ...And if the deadline were six weeks away, how fair would it be for somebody who has just been referred from their insurer to EQC."

Mr Grafton said there's nothing insurers want more than to settle all claims as soon as possible, but it's unrealistic to suggest it could all happen by the end of March.

- Newstalk ZB

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