Quality, liability, responsibility – these are all terms currently under the spotlight with regard to many earthquake repairs. And today, there are finally some numbers showing just how compliant a group of those repairs are. MBIE has released the results of its CEDAR Project, which surveyed the quality of unconsented structural repairs (read: foundation) done to 90 homes across Greater Christchurch. (101 houses were initially surveyed, but 11 turned out not to have a structural element to their repairs – more on these houses later.) The project looked at repairs carried out for the most part by EQC and EQR, but with a few others from Southern Response, IAG, Housing New Zealand, and some EQC ‘opt out’ repairs.
What wasn’t covered
The review was simply looking to check the quality of the workmanship, i.e. did the repairs meet the building code? Unfortunately, the scope is far narrower than we advocated for, as it does not assess whether the repair was the appropriate one for the house and land in the first place. It doesn’t seek to understand too much beyond the work of the contractor and the person who signed it off. It definitely does not seek to understand the role of EQC and EQR and how they may have added to Greater Christchurch being left with some dodgy housing stock.
Out of the 90 un-consented structural repairs that were assessed…
- 32 were non-compliant with the building code.
- Of those, 30 used the ‘jack and pack’ floor relevelling method.
- At least nine of these repairs were supervised by a Licensed Building Practitioner.
- 23 had minor repair defects.
- A strict application of the building code may result in some of these ‘minor defects’ becoming non-compliant.
NB: Out of the 11 houses that were discovered not to have a structural element to their repairs, three had structural repair strategies in place that were never done. That’s a concerning figure in and of itself that no-one seems to want to talk about. Does that mean that we can expect 3% of un-consented structural repairs to never actually have been done at all?
It’s also important to note that most of the non-compliant work was considered relatively minor and easy to fix. No life-safety concerns were identified with the repairs. Obviously though the homeowner may have some concerns about their insurance status in another event.
The tables below have been taken directly from the CEDAR report:
The report’s recommendations
Home inspection survey issues
- Agencies and/or their PMOs to rectify Building Code compliance issues identified by the survey.
Wider home repair programmes
- Agencies and/or their PMOs to undertake a review of completed repair work that has been exempted from a building consent, targeting houses where the repair works involved jacking and packing repair, to ensure compliance with the Building Code.
- Agencies and/or their PMOs to ensure that inspection and quality assurance procedures for current and future foundation repair work are robust.
- MBIE to facilitate further training of staff doing repair work to ensure they understand compliance/workmanship requirements for the work they are performing.
- Agencies and/or PMOs to ensure that only staff experienced or trained for particular repair work are doing that work.
- Agencies and/or their PMOs should further investigate any non-compliant work signed off by a Licensed Building Practitioners regime (LBP) and consider laying a complaint with the Building Practitioners Board.
- MBIE to undertake a review of the appropriateness of exemptions for foundation related building work.
What if I’m concerned about my repairs?
In the coming weeks Fletcher EQR and EQC will contact CHRP customers where ‘jack and pack’ and perimeter crack repair requiring technical input have been undertaken on their homes to update them. Clink the link above for the full media release.
If you are with an insurer and you have any concerns, talk to your claims specialist.
If you are concerned about EQC and EQR coming back into your life, talk to one of the earthquake support services.
Gerry, it’s not just the contractors’ fault
An issue we have with the information being leaked to the media last week without the full report is that the Earthquake Recovery Minister has had a week to point the finger directly at the contractors unchallenged. Although we believe there were some contractors who knowingly and willingly did rubbish repairs, we also know there were many who tried to make complaints about the work they or others were being asked to do. They have spoken to us at length over the years about having two choices – refuse to do the work and potentially miss out on other jobs and therefore income, or keep your head down, do the work and hope that one day someone will look into who and how decisions were made. There isn’t an easy answer to this and although quality standards should always be adhered to, so should the work environment be one that supports the contractor to be able to meet the quality standards. The Minister has used the media to put the contractors in the firing line prior to the final report being released. Without having the report in the public we have been unable to challenge his assertion that the only people who need to be hung are contractors.
We’ve been raising these concerns for a while…
EQC/EQR quality issues have been a regular focus for CanCERN over the years. A quick look back over our early newsletters show that we were asking for people with concerns to come forward as early as September 2011 and by the middle of 2012 we were desperately trying to meet with the Minister to articulate both the evidenced concerns and resident-centric solutions which we believed were necessary to address quality issues. In May 2013 we wrote a letter to the Minister (read it here), reiterating points we had consistently raised with the himself, CERA, EQC and insurers, the Parliamentary Ombudsman and the Auditor General between 2012 and 2013. We were never successful in meeting with the Minister to have this conversation.
Where would we be now had the Minister agreed to meet with us to see if there was something of value in what the residents had to say? Perhaps his ‘agency’ would not have been delivered the list of recommendations from MBIE (above).
Fletcher EQR Customer Services Statement
We thought you may also find this entertaining. The excerpt below was taken from a post on the Avonside Blog on April 23, 2012. You can read the full post and Customer Services Statement here. We actually hope some of you have had this experience and we hope this reminds the Minister, EQC, EQR and MBIE that Fletcher EQR was put in place to ensure we were left with quality assured housing stock.
What you can expect from Fletcher EQR:
- Project management of high quality repairs, undertaken by independent contractors, who have completed our accreditation process;
- Quality assurance to ensure works and materials meet required standards;
- Compliance with the building codes and consenting requirements, and obtaining code compliance certificates for the work where applicable;
- Screen contractors and suppliers to ensure quality standards can be met;
Where to from here?
Firstly, we will continue to work with EQC to ensure that whatever process is in place to address quality issues is based on a clear understanding of what the resident needs. Secondly, we are keen to follow up with contractors who have approached us again and see if their story can’t also be told. Lastly, we have always been committed to understanding how the processes of EQC and EQR have developed to either aid or hinder good residential recovery and this report just puts the conversation squarely back on the table. It looks as if quality discussions are not finished.