Owner pins hopes on new survey

By Laurel Stowell

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On the weekend of the June floods Wellington people were on their way to spend Saturday night in a holiday home in Anzac Pde.

Called Arioso, it is modern boutique accommodation in the heart of the city a block from the Red Lion Inn. Luckily the June group was turned back by flooding at Otaki.

The property is owned by Chrissy and Jim Richardson and is well used. If the visitors that weekend had arrived they would have found a massive slip had shoved 1.5m of dirt up against the back of the house and gone right through into its renovated bathroom.

"A tonne of mud landed in the upstairs ensuite. It broke through the wall, demolished the shower and was against the bath," Mr Richardson said.

The house was one of five affected in the same block. It was quickly red-stickered by Wanganui District Council as uninhabitable.

The New Zealand government agency that provides natural disaster insurance to residential property owners, the Earthquake Commission (EQC), has said the house is repairable. It offered Mr Richardson about a quarter of the money he will need to fix it.

He has asked Christchurch company Earthquake Services to help him get more.

CEO Bryan Staples says it is the only advocacy business in the country that can assemble teams of experts and help the owners of damaged properties.

"We are on your side. If we're not, who is? You are on your own."

Yesterday an Earthquake Services team from Christchurch began assessing the property.

The company has been asked to help many other Whanganui owners whose properties were affected by slips and whose EQC offers are not high enough to fix them.

The first round of assessments should be finished by Sunday - but Mr Staples predicts there will be more. If there are enough he will establish a Whanganui office where affected people can get information.

There's a four stage process for the properties the company takes on. First they are assessed by a team of four - a builder, an engineer and two loss adjusters. The loss adjusters look at the cost of repairs and the owner's insurance policy and say what the claim should be.

Next an engineer assesses the scope of work, then a quantity surveyor decides how much it will cost. Finally the matter goes to either mediation or litigation.

In Christchurch, the only other centre where Earthquake Services operates, only 4 per cent of cases have to go to court.

"Most insurers do the right thing in the end, once they are presented with all the evidence and have nowhere to turn. It's about gathering the evidence and being forceful enough to stand your ground."

Mr Staples said EQC and insurers paid out a minimum.

All the Whanganui cases referred to him so far involve slip damage. While he is in town he would like to assess some flood-damaged properties that have had EQC payouts and been repaired.

Mr Staples can be contacted on 022 037 1697.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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