A Christchurch woman badly injured in the 2011 quake and wrongly cut off from ACC payments is owed more than $236,000 in backdated compensation - but more than half will be used to refund another government department for benefits she was forced to seek to survive.
Tattoo artist Bonnie Singh is now appealing the "debt" and feels ACC should repay it out of its own coffers, saying if her weekly compensation wasn't stopped she never would have needed benefits.
Singh, who lives in Lyttelton with her teenage daughter, was a receptionist at the Southern Ink tattoo studio in February 2011.
When the quake shook the city, Singh was crushed by falling concrete and knocked unconscious but managed to drag herself through a tiny hole in the rubble to safety.
She broke eight vertebrae, suffered a head injury and concussion and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Unable to work after the quake and with ongoing medical issues, Singh was initially covered by ACC payments.
In early 2013 she was advised that she had been assessed as being able to work 30 hours a week or more in her pre-injury employment - and that she was no longer entitled to weekly compensation and "all other supports".
She said she protested at the time but got nowhere. So, believing she was no longer entitled to ACC and still unable to work because of ongoing pain, she applied for other government benefits through Work and Income New Zealand under the Ministry of Social Development.
From 2013 to 2019 Singh, believing she could not get support, had no contact with ACC.
But last year, fed up with struggling to make ends meet, she asked advocate Fiona Radford to look at her case.
She hoped to get funding for pain management acupuncture but Radford found she was entitled to much more.
In November the Herald revealed that ACC agreed Singh should not have been cut off, saying its initial decision had been replaced and she was now deemed "incapacitated for pre-injury employment" from the week compensation was cut in 2013 until now - seven years.
ACC then calculated a lump-sum back payment for Singh.
Singh has given the Herald permission to report that ACC agreed to pay her $236,165 (before tax) in backdated weekly compensation.
However $129,642 must be repaid to Winz for benefits Singh received since 2013 - leaving her with $106,523.
An additional "debt" of just over $27,000 is also owed to Winz for other support supplements she received.
Just days before the 10-year anniversary of the devastating quake Singh received her portion of the money.
Although she appreciated the cash as it would allow her to work less and finally focus more on her healing - she was disappointed the Winz repayments were not being paid by ACC.
Radford was appealing ACC's decision around the payment and also the Winz "debt".
ACC chief operating officer Mike Tully said ACC looked into covering the outstanding debt as a payment "outside of scope".
"We found there was no error on our behalf and declined this outside of scope payment.
"We do not believe we have made an error nor did we cut off her entitlements - we weren't paying weekly compensation to Bonnie for around six years because there was no contact from her nor her GP during this period.
"We agreed that Bonnie hadn't recovered from her 2011 injuries and have confirmed we will reinstate and backdate her weekly compensation."
Tully said he was "satisfied there is no error" and the MSD had to be paid back under New Zealand law.
"When we agree to backdate weekly compensation, our legislation requires us to repay the Ministry of Social Development for any benefit a client receives for periods covered by the backdated weekly compensation," he said.
"This is to avoid people in effect being paid twice."
Tully said ACC was "committed to working with Bonnie" to make sure she had the help and support she needed.
"We acknowledged that parts of this process to complete her backdated payment could've been done faster and have apologised to Bonnie for this delay," he added.
Radford said she would keep fighting for Singh - in her ACC and MSD cases.
She said repaying MSD out of Singh's back payment was "punishing her on punishing her".
"If there was no error in the decision of April 2013 to say Bonnie could work fulltime, then why is ACC back paying to the same exact date?
"The fact that ACC wants her to pay the debt, which they created by placing her there, is obscene.
"ACC placed Bonnie in this position and then does not wish to rectify the problem.
"It is a regrettable decision for ACC to continue with its abuse of power."
Radford said she had also complained to ACC Minister Carmel Sepuloni and Associate Minister Willie Jackson about Singh's case.
"They have never responded to complaints directly to them in 2020," she said.
"Bonnie has had to fight every single step of the way - from the rubble of an earthquake to this.