Sarah-Alice Miles

Biography

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

Smashwords Interview

When did you first start writing?
I began writing when I was 14 years of age. I had gone to spend the week in a small rural city in New Zealand, Invercargill in the region of Southland. I spent the week on a large sheep farm. I was friends with framer Jack's (yes that was his real name) children. On this particular occasion we spent the day skinning opossums in one of his several large farm sheds on the property and in the evening headed inside for a traditional roast lamb meal. After dinner the fire was lit and we settled in for a quiet evening. No television, just friendly banter. As the evening drew on, I got to talking to Jack and he began to tell me of his years of diary writing. He told me he'd written a diary for forty-five years and that every day he recorded the weather and any major events on the farm or in his life. I heard his words but did not really understand the magnitude of what he was telling me. It was only when and until he dragged out a large box with his 45 years worth of diaries and personal history piled high, that 'the penny dropped'. I was truly astounded and momentarily flawed and from that very moment - I was a convert. On the upper edge of every page was a small hand drawn image of the weather for that day - clouds, sunshine, rain or snow, it was all there.
At the end of that wonderful week I couldn't wait to get home and buy myself a diary. I too have kept a diary ever since. I am now 48 years of age. Unlike Jack's very functional diaries mine are beautiful books written with fountain pen. Over the years I always keep my eye open for beautiful books worthy of a life times of experience scrawled over its' pages. The same energy has gone into buying just the right fountain pen and ink by which to write the words - I am currently using a silver Victorian Yard-O-Led. As time has gone on the style and use of my diaries has changed. In the early days everything was recorded, as I have aged I tend to use the books' pages to work through issues, thoughts, quandaries. The books are no longer an everyday chronicle of the practicalities of life.
As the years past I came to really admire Jack, I remain friends with his son. Jack has since died but that evening is forever etched on my mind and in my heart and I remain very humbled and thankful that he felt he could share his diaries with me. That night a writer was born.
What's the story behind your latest book?
I live in New Zealand. We had a series of major earthquakes in Christchurch City, the South Island of New Zealand between 2010-2012. As a result of those earthquakes there were hundreds of thousands of insurance claims. Mine was one of those claims. Driven by my experiences I wrote this book as a commentary on the post-earthquake reconstruction phase of Christchurch City after the earthquakes.
Over the past five and a half years the private insurance industry has failed miserably to achieve any decent level of progress with the reconstruction of residential properties in the Canterbury region and has thus contributed to the on-going misery of the affected population. These are patterns replicated the world over.
The Canterbury events are in actuality of concern to all New Zealanders and others around the globe for a variety of reasons. In my book I share the background information I have gathered and analysed from both New Zealand and from other disaster stricken areas in the world. It is my hope that in this way New Zealand and other global citizens affected by natural disasters and with insurance policies will be better able to protect themselves.
In The Insurance Aftershock I share the outcomes of my research with others. I intend to bring a better awareness of the underlying issues behind the state of affairs in Canterbury and other communities affected by natural disasters. The last decades have seen an alarming increase in global natural disasters affecting hundreds of thousands people, most recently Hurricane Sandy in the U.S, the Japanese Tsunami, flooding in the UK and the Western Australia bush fires. What we are beginning to become aware of is that it is likely in the years to come that these natural disasters will increase in number.
The aftermath of the 2010-2014 Christchurch earthquakes in New Zealand offered me a rare opportunity to examine the national policies and effectiveness of Government funding and management of catastrophe on a national scale. My findings are both surprising and disturbing. The slow and confused recovery phase led me 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. This is not a book about idealistic sociological concepts, but a revelation of actual Government administrative failure and financial risk-taking, in concert with corporate malfeasance.
It is a book every homeowner, policy-maker, politician, local-government official, Treasury official and economist, should read. This is a story the wider media chooses not to publicize and consequently few people outside Christchurch are aware of the extent of the ongoing insurance battles. 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. The book discloses 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.
Read more of this interview.

Where to find Sarah-Alice Miles online


Where to buy in print


Books

The Insurance Aftershock:The Christchurch Fiasco Post-Earthquakes 2010-2016
Price: $9.99 USD. Words: 136,500. Language: English. Published: March 12, 2016. Categories: Nonfiction » Business & Economics » Insurance / property, Nonfiction » Politics and Current Affairs » Economic policy
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.

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