Dear Earthquake Commission,
Is it ok for me to call you EQC? After all this time I feel like we should be close enough for nicknames, right? This letter might be long, but then so is the amount of time that has passed since we first started talking. So please, stay with me. Listen to what I have to say.
Your name first tickled my ears way back in 2010. We were blessed that we had an organization in place that would take care of the people in the event of a catastrophic natural disaster, such as the earthquake that shook us awake early that fateful September morning. The people of Christchurch had been kissed by Lady Luck, and we knew it. Our buildings, infrastructure, and nerves had taken a bit of a beating, but we had all survived one of the biggest quakes to hit New Zealand. Luckily, I didn’t own the home that I was living in, so my dealings with you at that stage were minimum. I know people felt safe in your hands though. You would help us.
In 2013, my then-partner and I purchased our first home. We were advised by the bank and insurance company that we didn’t need to get a builder’s report because you, a government agency, had completed the repairs. It was all signed off and backed up by the paperwork you provided us. Both companies took you at your word and provided us with cover and a mortgage. We loved our new home, and we had huge dreams for our future. Dreams that would soon come crashing down.
I didn’t know this at the time EQC, but the vomiting after the auction wasn’t out of nerves. Shortly after settlement, I would discover that I was pregnant with my son Luke. We got out of NICU and I noticed that the repair work that you had promised you had done on my house was failing.
Cracks were appearing in the foundation, the paint on the exterior of the house was warping and flaking, doors weren’t shutting or were opening by themselves, and the bog you used to patch the gaps in the weatherboards were falling out, leaving us with gaping holes. You arranged for an assessor to visit, and a quick five minutes after he arrived, he declined the claim due to the damage allegedly being caused by the shrink/swell of the soil. I was suffering badly with post-partum depression and sleep exhaustion, and you were qualified to make these decisions, so again, I took your word for it. I requested all my paperwork and after receiving it, I read the EQC assessment from that day. I don’t want to believe he lied EQC, so I hope it was a case of a mistaken house. He said he went into the roof and under the floor. I know I was in a fog of nappies and puke at the time EQC, but I’d remember having to clear access to the man-hole. Later, we’d go under the floors ourselves and discover huge chunks out of the piles and cracks to the inside of the foundation. I don’t know if you were having a bad day yourself when you scoped our house, but there was lots of damage that you missed.
Time went on, calls were made, excuses were provided, and I was told that if I wanted to contest any decision made by you, I’d need to commission multitude of expensive reports. I mentioned earlier on EQC, I wasn’t in a good place. Financially we couldn’t afford to get these reports and I couldn’t take it on emotionally. Eventually, I found some companies that would allow me to make repayments and I approached you, reports in hand. Thus, began what has been my 5-year battle with you.
I’m disappointed EQC. No, I’m heartbroken. I trusted you with my biggest asset. With my future. With my son’s future. It took 5 years to get you to come to my house and acknowledge that the damage to my home was caused by shoddy workmanship by the companies that you asked us to put our trust in. I thought that after that, we’d be smooth sailing, but no. More excuses, more hiding things under the rug and more heartbreak. My son’s whole life has been filled with bank-breaking reports and a mum who has constantly been on the edge of a breakdown.
Last night EQC, that breakdown happened. A tear escaped and was followed by many more. Five years’ worth of anguish, heartbreak, financial struggles, and the fear of the future (all of which was caused by you, EQC) finally broke through. As I lay sobbing in the darkness, my thoughts went to the thousands of us who are in the same position. You shouldn’t need a review telling you that you need to be treating people with empathy and respect or that we’re not numbers, but people whose lives have been put on hold while we fight for what is right. EQC, you’re 70 years old. You should know these things. It’s just Customer Service 101. It’s about humanity and respect.
We’re tired. We’re financially destitute. We’re living with depression, anxiety, PTSD and other stress-related illnesses, all caused by you EQC. We so desperately want to move on but can’t. The older generation has lost the retirement years they worked so hard for. We’re losing money by frequently leaving work to attend meetings where we are constantly told that you can’t help us. That you’re bound by the statutory cap. This isn’t just about houses getting repaired but about real people. Real families. Real mental health issues. You ask us to trust you. Unfortunately, EQC, you have proved time and time again that we can’t rely on you to do what’s right and fix what you did wrong.
On every anniversary of the quakes, I think 365 more days since the ground jumped and shook beneath my feet, the buildings crumbled, and the flames of life were so quick to be extinguished in 187 people. 365 more days in a damaged house. 365 more days of being ignored, pushed aside and treated like a number. I’m exhausted EQC, but I’ll continue to fight. I’ll continue to be the voice for all of those who don’t have the ability to speak up. Whether you want to or not EQC you will fix this. There’s an entire community of us who take it in turns to hold each other up and remind each other that there is light at the end of the tunnel. We will push forward for our families and for what’s right.