What is the purpose of this Inquiry?

This Public Inquiry into the Earthquake Commission is the first “public inquiry” to be held in New Zealand under the Inquiries Act 2013. It has been established to examine the role and work of the Earthquake Commission (EQC) in the aftermath of recent natural disasters, and to learn lessons that can be applied to improve how it operates in future.

You can read more about its purpose in the Inquiry Terms of Reference

What is the Earthquake Commission, and what does it do?

The Earthquake Commission (EQC) is a New Zealand Crown entity investing in natural disaster research, education and providing natural disaster insurance to residential property owners. You can find out more here(external link).

Whose idea was this Inquiry?

The Inquiry was initiated by the Government, and established through an Order in Council by the Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy, which you can read here(external link).

You can read the statement of Minister Megan Woods here(external link)

Who is in charge of this Inquiry?

The Inquiry is being led by former Governor-General, Dame Silvia Cartwright, who will be supported by a team in the operation of the Inquiry. The nature of a “Public Inquiry” is that it will operate independently from the government.

You can read more about Dame Silvia Cartwright here

Why is this a Public Inquiry, and not a Royal Commission of Inquiry?

A Public Inquiry has all the powers and protections of a Royal Commission of Inquiry, as laid out in the Inquiries Act 2013(external link).

A Public Inquiry demonstrates the subject matter is of national importance and deserving of independent scrutiny. A Royal Commission of Inquiry is typically reserved for the most serious matters of public importance, such as that into the Christchurch mosques terror attack.

Will the Inquiry recommend criminal charges, dismissals or otherwise hold people to account for their actions?

No. The Inquiry is focused on ensuring a better service and operations in future. While it may find fault, it is not designed to apportion blame. It will not operate in an adversarial way similar to what you might see in a courtroom.

Will this Inquiry help me with my unresolved EQC claim, reopen a settled claim I am not happy with, or help me in a court challenge against EQC?

No, the Inquiry is not designed to assist with individual claims, to reopen claims or to revisit court findings or legal precedents relating to EQC. There are avenues available to claimants to address unresolved or settled claims, including legal challenges. You can find out more about other avenues here

Where will the Inquiry be based?

The Inquiry team is based in Christchurch and staffed by Cantabrians to reflect the Canterbury focus. Dame Silvia will spend a significant period of time in Christchurch in the course of the Inquiry. Dame Silvia and the Inquiry team will travel to other areas as required to hear from submitters and meet relevant parties.

Will I get the chance to share my experience, and have my say about EQC?

Yes. Anyone wanting to have their say can do so, and all material provided to the Inquiry will be considered. The Inquiry has collected close to a thousand written submissions and has met with hundreds of others in public forums and meetings around New Zealand.

Anyone can request a meeting with Dame Silvia, who will then consider what meetings she requires to develop her findings and recommendations.

Will I be able to speak to Dame Silvia about my views?

All submissions made to the Inquiry will be considered in the report by Dame Silvia. Dame Silvia has been meeting with individuals, groups and organisations she considers can further assist her in formulating her findings and recommendations. People also had the opportunity to have their say at public forums held by the Inquiry.

Will my views and information provided to the Inquiry be made public?

Your submission (including supporting documents) will be held securely by the Inquiry team for analysis, and the team expects to draw on submissions received.

Where submissions are made by an individual, confidentiality for all or part of the submission (including documents submitted to the Inquiry) can be requested.

Where the content of submissions is publicly released by the Inquiry, any personal or identifying information will be removed, along with any other material you identify and that which the Inquiry deems should be withheld, such as confidential or sensitive information.

Groups/organisations making submissions can request confidentiality for part/s of their submissions, and can provide redacted versions.         

You can choose to share or publicly release your own submission, the content of which you are responsible for.

More information about handling of your submission is available here [PDF, 582 KB].  

What if I signed up to a confidential settlement with EQC or my insurer? Can I still speak to the Inquiry about it? 

If you have signed a confidential settlement with EQC, EQC has agreed to waive any applicable confidentiality obligation and/or any other clause that might inhibit free communication with the Inquiry. You can read more here(external link) under the heading Confidentiality of settlement agreements in the context of the Public Inquiry into EQC.

If you have signed a confidential settlement agreement with your insurer (other than EQC) or other parties, or have given confidentiality undertakings to others, for example the court at a judicial settlement conference or to other parties at mediation, you may need to seek a waiver of your obligations before disclosing the relevant terms to the Inquiry. You may consider that you can make a submission without disclosing any confidential information, in which case we would encourage you to take that approach. Alternatively, if you consider that it is important for you to disclose some of this confidential information, we suggest you either contact your insurer direct (if they have not already contacted you) or contact the Inquiry team to discuss this matter further.

How long will this Inquiry take?

The Inquiry must report its findings and recommendations to the Governor-General by 31 March 2020, however at least a draft report is expected by the end of 2019.

Other inquiries have been led by panels or groups - can this Inquiry be realistically led by one person?

Dame Silvia Cartwright is a former High Court judge and has extensive experience in the operation and running of inquiries. While she will be the sole head of the Inquiry, Dame Silvia will be able to draw on the experience and expertise of a Community Reference Group, legal and analytical support, and a range of technical support as required through the course of the Inquiry.

What will realistically happen as a result of the Inquiry?

The Inquiry is strongly focused on ensuring better experiences with EQC for all parties in future events. The future-focused findings and recommendations of the Inquiry will be reported to Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy, and then presented to the Government. We expect the Government, having initiated this Inquiry, will give serious consideration to the findings and recommendations.

We will be mindful in the course of the Inquiry of the necessity to maintain a properly functioning insurance market in New Zealand that supports and provides protection for New Zealanders and their property.

Hasn’t EQC’s performance been inquired into already? How will this Inquiry be any different?

Yes, there has been a range of reviews and reports already completed into the work of EQC through different lenses. This Inquiry will be different in that it will be independent of government, will take a more global view and will be have a strong focus on improving the operations of and service provided by EQC into the future.

How much will this Inquiry cost?

The Inquiry has a budget of up to $3.2 million (or $3.3 million if including capital funding), which will cover the running of the Inquiry, including communicating and engaging with the public, forums/meetings, gathering and analysing submissions, and producing a final report. It will also cover fees for Dame Silvia and salaries for the team supporting the Inquiry Chair. 

Why does it cost this much? How do we know it will be value for money?

The budget for the Inquiry was based on costs of similar comparable exercises. The actual spend will depend on the level of interest/participation, and the work required to produce a thorough and meaningful report. All spending will be carefully considered and monitored, according to government expectations, to ensure it is appropriate.    

How do I get in touch with the Inquiry if I want to know more?

There are various information resources available on this website. If you have any further questions, you can contact the Inquiry team using the contacts available on this site.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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