The Insurance Aftershock:The Christchurch Fiasco Post-Earthquakes 2010-2016

More than five years have passed since the September 4, 2010 Canterbury earthquake. Many thousands of Cantabrians are still living away from their homes, paying rents, mortgages and rates on uninhabitable properties, slowly going broke and as yet there is no end in sight. In the background is an insurance industry and a Government that has done little to assist the population in its time of need. More

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About Sarah-Alice Miles

Sarah-Alice was living in Christchurch, New Zealand in September 2010 when that country was hit by a 7.1 earthquake which was followed by another 12,000 subsequent earthquakes between 2010-2012. Both her home and business were seriously affected. Despite New Zealand’s very high residential property insurance coverage (95%) this Western society was little prepared for what would follow.
The aftermath of the 2010-2014 Christchurch earthquakes in New Zealand offered Sarah-Alice a rare opportunity to examine the national policies and effectiveness of Government funding and management of catastrophe on a national scale. Her findings were both surprising and disturbing. The slow and confused recovery phase led her to examine the insurance industry, locally and globally. This has revealed a clear pattern of corporate greed at the expense of citizens and has shown that the profit-driven model of private insurance can, and very often does, fail those who have paid-up policies based on “good faith” responses that are their due. What emerges is a revelation of actual Government administrative failure and financial risk-taking, in concert with corporate malfeasance. These are the same insurance battles fought by citizens the world over after similar catastrophic events. The opportunistic behaviour of the insurance companies together with the lack of transparency and integrity within these corporations, is compounded by the failure of corporate watch-dogs, such as government, the legal system and regulators, all of whom have failed to protect the public interest after the recent events. In the background, behind closed doors, are the strategic alliances and the networked relationships between Government, corporates, professionals and other major stakeholders with the object of profit. The interests and voices of the policyholder and homeowner are conveniently ignored and the lack of redress is well understood by these arguably complicit parties. Sarah-Alice examines the failures and fallacies of current disaster management strategies, not only in terms of the huge financial implications but also the management of the ‘recovery’ phase. She also examines international experiences of catastrophe from the viewpoint of government policies and funding strategies, pointing to a fundamental conflict of interest between corporatism and the need for rapid recovery in the interests of both the affected public, business interests and the economy. People around the world post-disaster recount similar experiences with an insurance industry that promises a different kind of experience.
Sarah continues to speak and write and contribute internationally on topics relating to insurance, disaster management and urban planning and climate change. She also has an active blog: www.thechristchurchfiasco@wordpress.com

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