Friday, February 03, 2012

Earthquake Update

This afternoon I headed up the Rapaki Track for the first time in nearly a year. It's a popular track with mountain bikers, joggers and walkers. However after the February 22nd quake (2011) it was closed for many months due to rockfall hazard. On December 23rd, at midday, the announcement was made that it had reopened. And then two hours later, there was another quake, and one an hour after that, so it was again closed.

It seems that all the issues have been resolved, although there is still this sign at the start of the track. Many other tracks are still officially closed. For instance, the valley track in the gully below, where my favourite grumpy faced rock resides (at least, I hope it still resides there and wasn't a casualty of the earthquakes), and where a lone piper used to be heard practising from time to time.

On the Summit Road at the top of the track, there is a substantial road barrier - not one, but four rows of orange poles, then some heavy concrete barriers and a locked gate with a very official looking sign:

You can't quite read the small print in the photo, but it warns of a penalty of a very heavy fine or up to three months imprisonment, under the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Act (some section or other), for ignoring the "No Entry" warning.

I used a lot of zoom to take this photograph:

This is on the other side of the Summit Road from the top of the track, it is the end of the cliff which used to be a popular rock climbing area. I very much doubt that it will be considered safe enough for rock climbing for a long time.

In other news, a link to my daughter's post on the process of her earthquake-related house repairs - now nearly completed. And as for ours - well, today we had an assessor sent by our insurance company. Seven months ago, the EQC (government natural disaster insurance organisation) assessed the house. And they have now decided that it is over the cap - (see explanation below) - so they passed the claim over to our insurance company. How this took seven months to decide I can't quite fathom. I guess it just sat in a pile of 100,000 or so other claims for that time, not being looked at. Today's assessor agreed that the damage was well over the EQC $100,000 cap - though he also told me that the house had "stood up pretty well". In other words, along with the chimney that fell down, the front of the house that needs to be jacked up, and a few doors that don't open or shut properly, there are enough cracks in ceilings, wall linings and exterior cladding to add up to a considerable sum to fix - but structurally, the house is not in any danger of falling down - unlike some.

For those overseas readers who are unfamiliar with the New Zealand earthquake insurance system - after the big 1931 Napier earthquake, the government set up the Earthquake Insurance Commission, which was supposed to cover damage to private houses (not businesses) from natural disasters. It is funded by a levy on all insurance policies. But the annual levy, and the limit on cover, were last reviewed in, I think, 1989, so have rather failed to keep pace with inflation. This means that EQC will cover damage up to $100,000 (plus GST - a type of sales tax) which in 1989 was the full cost of the average house. So, for the Christchurch earthquake, the system that is running is this:
Damage under $10,000 is paid out in cash and you organise your own repairs.
For damage between $10,000 to $100,000, Fletchers, a big construction company, have been appointed to oversee the repair process. This is to avoid having lots of "cowboy" contractors and price hikes due to the overwhelming demand for tradespeople. Fletchers then appoint subcontractors to do the repairs (the process my daughter has just been through).
And the third level - if it is above that, the $100,000 is paid either to your bank, if you have a mortgage, or to the homeowner, and the insurance company takes over from there.

I'm not too disturbed that we are over the limit, I had long suspected as much and wondered why no one had said so before. In fact, I think in some ways it will be easier to have only the insurance company to deal with, and not the rest of the bureaucracy. As to when anything will happen, along with most of the rest of the population of Christchurch, I have no idea. No doubt some time before I die, if that's not unexpectedly soon!


Kathleen Jones said...

Poor you! It's so slow. My daughter had her ceiling fixed to make it safe, but they told her that they might not be back to finish it for a year or so! And she's still waiting to have the septic tank replaced.

The pics of the summit road made me very sad - used to be one of my favourite drives.

Catherine said...

Kathleen, you can still drive part of the Summit Road, it is open from the west of this spot to the end. It is the eastern part that is closed as it passes under a number of unstable cliff faces. You can't make a round trip drive any more, and the road from Sumner over the hill to Lyttelton is likely to remain closed for a long time.