For Colleen and Kelly Cooper, the 10 years since the Christchurch earthquake represents a lost decade as they fought in vain to get an insurance payment for their damaged home which still hasn't been settled.
Both Colleen and Kelly have sons with autism and thought they were going to be prioritised in the insurance payout for quake damage.
The four of them are trapped in a house and a sleep-out that is cracked, leaking and mouldy, with the damage still in dispute so it can’t be repaired and with no pay out forthcoming it can't be sold.
“I just thought that the insurance company would look after me, I never thought I would have a problem. Make a claim, it would be fixed, I didn’t know that it was going to be a fight,” Colleen said.
It was over eight years before they went over the Earthquake Commission cap, Colleen said.
“We were told because we were a vulnerable family with our children that we would be prioritised, and I didn’t know that we would be prioritised down to the bottom of the list.”
“I told my son during the earthquake we never have to worry, I always pay my insurance, I pay it first, I always make sure we’re all insured.”
“If anything happened, that will be fixed and that’s not how it works even though I’m still paying my insurance on the property at quite a good amount and it’s not been fixed.”
A substantial crack in the floor that runs from the bathroom into bedroom of Colleen’s son was given contradictory assessments by insurance assessors, the Coopers say.
“I was told by the very first assessor that came around that they would have to cut it all out and it would be a major repair to put the concrete back to the same strength,” Colleen said.
“I was told they’d be able to drop a bit of epoxy in there, no problem, that would be fine.”
“They were all EQC [assessors], we’ll put some epoxy down the crack and not worry about it,” Kelly said.
The Coopers feel like they’ve been forgotten in the decade since the quake.
“I feel like I’ve been treated for 10 years like I’m asking for something I’m not entitled to,” Colleen said.
“I’d really like them to give me back the 10 years they’ve pinched off me, that they’ve taken off my son’s life, where he could be now.”
“I feel like I paid my money and should get my 10 years back, if you can’t do that then do the right thing, fix my house properly, don’t give me a patch up job.”
Pro bono advocate Ali Jones from the Greater Christchurch Claims Resolution Service (GCCRS) said there were no definitive numbers on similar cases to the Coopers.
She had seen “figures that don’t match” in reports in the last week or so.
“We had 6000 apply for the on-sell programme, those were houses that were bought then found to be damaged after we thought they were repaired.”
“We’ve got 1700 with EQNZ, there are at least 10,000 claims I would say with two to three people for each claim.”
Jones said there absolutely should be an inquiry into Government owned insurer Southern Response.
“The Karl and Alison Dodds case is a completely different situation, there are people still with Southern Response now who are being seriously bullied, who are not moving forward, it’s all about dollars, not about repairing people’s houses.”
“There are still issues with EQNZ, Southern Response and in the insurers, look at Colleen and Kelly, they are one of many in those sorts of situations.”
“We have got to give these people their lives back and at the moment we can’t.”
According to Breakfast host John Campbell, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern offered a “kick for touch” answer when she was asked about renewed calls for an inquiry into Southern Response this morning.
“Some of the issues that have been raised around Southern Response and of course you’ll know of the case led by the Dodds which has led to a pathway for some resolution for others affected by the decisions and processes used by Southern Response,” she told Breakfast.
“We’re going through the process of seeing some resolution to those have been caught up in long and protracted issues through the courts. I see our job as bringing that resolution, it’s why we also bought in the disputes resolution process that’s helped hundreds and hundreds of cases lingering on and on to finally be resolved.”