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Cabinet Paper: DEV-20-SUB-0116: Government Response to the Public Inquiry into the Earthquake Commission
Office of the Minister Responsible for the Earthquake Commission
Office of the Minister for Greater Christchurch Regeneration
Chair, Cabinet Economic Development Committee
Government Response to the Public Inquiry into the Earthquake Commission
1.This paper seeks agreement to the proposed Government response to the report and recommendations of the Public Inquiry (the Inquiry) into the Earthquake Commission (EQC). We propose the Government accepts, accepts in principle, or commits to further work on all recommendations.
Relation to government priorities
2.The proposals outlined in this paper will advance the objectives in the National Disaster Resilience Strategy,1 which has a number of objectives which align to the proposed response to the Inquiry, in particular:
2.1"strengthen the national leadership of the emergency management system to provide clearer direction and more consistent response to and recovery from emergencies" and
2.2"ensure it is clear who is responsible for what, nationally, regionally, and locally, in response and recovery; enable and empower community-level response, and ensure it is connected into wider coordinated responses, when and where necessary."
3.Cantabrians were traumatised by thousands of earthquakes which followed an initial 7.1 magnitude earthquake on 4 September 2010. For many people, the experience of fighting to receive insurance payments and rebuild their home was extremely stressful.
4. The Earthquake Commission, which provides natural disaster insurance cover for damage to privately insured residential properties, was unprepared for an event of this size. EQC was not alone: the whole of government’s preparedness was less than ideal.
5. The managed repair programme, which EQC had not planned for but was required to implement, saw poor assessment of properties result in missed damage and/or botched repairs. More than ten years after the event, too many people are still living in homes that have been not adequately repaired. The social and health costs of this are significant. The confidence New Zealanders have in post-event recovery has been seriously undermined, including growing concerns for the standard of our housing stock.
6.In November 2018, the Government appointed Dame Silvia Cartwright to undertake a Public Inquiry into the Earthquake Commission. The Inquiry’s purpose was to ensure lessons are learnt from people’s experiences following recent natural disaster events in New Zealand. The Inquiry’s report was publicly released on 9 April 2020.
7. The Inquiry’s report makes it clear we need to put in place appropriate policies and an operating structure for EQC, so no other communities have to suffer the same experiences as the people in Canterbury. The Report contains 70 recommendations, raising broad policy issues, including government’s disaster preparedness, while others are operational. Responses to each recommendation are provided in Appendix 1.
8. We propose the Government accepts, accepts in principle, or commits to further work on all recommendations. This entails taking a wide range of actions to improve both the operations of EQC, including modernisation of the EQC Act 1993, and cross-government preparedness for future natural disaster events.
1 The National Disaster Resilience Strategy is issued by the Minister of Civil Defence, pursuant to s 31 of the Civil Defence Emergency Management Act 2002. It provides an outline of the Crown’s goals in relation to civil defence emergency management, including the objectives to be pursued to achieve those goals. The current strategy came into effect on 10 April 2019.