Earthquake Commission (EQC) chairman Sir Maarten Wevers has resigned, following the decision to appoint an independent adviser to speed up the resolution of thousands of outstanding Canterbury earthquake claims.
EQC Minister Megan Woods made the call, saying she needed a “direct line of sight” into the settlement process and why it was dragging out.
Woods said she had “made it clear I am not satisfied with where EQC is at in respect of the Canterbury earthquake work seven years on from the February 22 [earthquake]”, with about 2600 claims still unresolved.
“These are 2600 people and families who cannot get on with their lives seven years on, and for me that is not good enough.”
The independent adviser would report directly to her, offering a “clearer and more direct line of sight into the settlement of Canterbury claims” at the Crown entity.
The adviser would also be accompanied by Treasury officials to help assess the EQC’s outstanding liabilities, she said.
The remaining claims were largely re-repairs, and she wanted further information on whether the figure could increase as more work was done,
“That is a number that obviously moves around as further re-repairs are found.”
Woods’ decision appears to have in effect forced out Wevers. She said she met him on Wednesday morning to inform him of her intentions, followed by a formal letter on Thursday.
On Thursday evening, Wevers rang her to tender his resignation, with Woods accepting his formal resignation on Friday.
Woods ducked a question about whether she was happy with Wevers’ performance, saying: “What I’m happy with now is that we have a plan going forward. I think EQC has had a difficult job to do here in Canterbury...the job that needs to be done is to settle the remaining 2600 claims.”
Woods said she would appoint an interim chairperson next week, along with announcing the independent adviser, expected to be “a senior public servant who would also work with MBIE around the wider insurance issue”.
In a statement, Wevers said it was “clear that the minister has no confidence in the board and staff of the commission”.
“As chair, I take responsibility for that, and have stepped aside so that the minister can appoint someone whom she assesses will be able to do a better job.”
Wevers said his resignation letter noted the fact that 2600 out of over 470,000 claims remained outstanding, less than 0.6 per cent, was of “no comfort” to EQC.
He had “great regret” he would be unable to support EQC staff and management “over the last few steps on our journey together”.