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NZ budget funds Canterbury claims tribunal, EQC inquiry

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New Zealand has allocated funding for a tribunal to resolve outstanding Canterbury earthquake residential claims and an independent inquiry into the Earthquake Commission’s (EQC) performance.

Minister for Courts Andrew Little says the tribunal will offer an individually case-managed resolution process and mediation services to resolve unsettled disputes from the 2010 and 2011 quakes.

“This is a vital part of helping people get their claims sorted,” he said. “People have been waiting for years and this is needed to break through the deadlock.”

The new national budget allocates $NZ6.5 million ($6 million) in operating funds and $NZ1.5 million ($1.4 million) to establish the tribunal.

The Insurance Council of New Zealand says it supports initiatives to efficiently resolve outstanding Canterbury claims.

“As long as the tribunals allow for the rules of natural justice, the ability to provide evidence and for significant points of law to be subject to appeal, this could contribute to the resolution of issues,” CEO Tim Grafton said.

The Government says it will soon release terms of reference for an independent public inquiry into the EQC’s performance after the quakes.

“It’s important we get to the bottom of what went wrong, so we are better prepared for future disasters,” Minister Responsible for the EQC Megan Woods said. “We owe it to the people of Canterbury, who have been through so much, to ensure their voices are heard.

“We also need to look at what was done well and what has worked better in the [subsequent] Kaikoura earthquake sequence.”

The inquiry will have the power to compel evidence and hold public hearings, with membership to be announced shortly.

The budget provides operating funding of $NZ800,000 ($732,816) this financial year and $NZ2.4 million ($2.2 million) next year, plus $NZ100,000 ($91,600) of capital.