EQC legislation shake-up should be helpful for property owners after future quakes (including East Coast cabin dwellers)

Latest from the Beehive

Nothing announced from the Beehive at the weekend looks likely to trigger angry marches on Parliament – or to incite strong emotions of any sort that might affect our voting behaviour, come to think of it.  But the good people of a small East Coast settlement (some of them, anyway, depending on their tribal affiliations) may well be rejoicing at a housing initiative announced in their favour today.

Something much more substantial was announced an hour or so later in the form of news that EQC’s operations and legislation will change in response to the Inquiry into the Earthquake Commission, undertaken by Dame Silvia Cartwright.

This week marks 10 years since the Darfield-centred earthquake, the first in a series of devastating Canterbury quakes.

In the aftermath of those disasters, EQC shortcomings resulted in botched repairs and years of trauma and uncertainty for the victims.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson said the new Act will respond to many recommendations in the Inquiry’s report, providing certainty for claimants and agencies involved in responding to natural disasters.  

Megan Woods, Minister responsible for  Greater Christchurch Regeneration, said the Government had already made changes to resolve some of the issues highlighted by Dame Silvia – for example, providing access to affordable dispute resolution through the Greater Christchurch Claim Resolution Service and the Canterbury Earthquake Insurance Tribunal.

Moreover, EQC has made a number of changes to its operations, including introducing case managers and becoming more claimant-centred.

As for the quiet weekend, yes, we are aware the PM yesterday confirmed Auckland would leave lockdown at 11.50pm and move into what she called a “level 2.5”.  But there is no written press statement to record this decision.

We did find a tribute she paid to Japan’s outgoing Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

And Deputy PM Winston Peters issued a statement as Minister of Foreign Affairs to commend the life and work of Bruce Shepherd, New Zealand’s Consul-General to New Caledonia, French Polynesia and Wallis and Futuna who died in Noumea at the weekend.

Peters issued another statement in tandem with Civil Defence Minister Peeni Henare to welcome the deployment of five more DART (Deep-ocean Assessment and Reporting of Tsunami) buoys.

The network will be completed in 2021, the last three DART Buoys to be deployed near the New Hebrides Trench to monitor tsunami sources near New Caledonia and the Solomon Islands.

Here at Point of Order, we were wondering if disaster authorities might be alerted to a tsunami by one of these buoys before we were alerted by our trough monitor to further generous government handouts.

We didn’t wonder for long.  This morning Associate Housing Minister Nanaia Mahuta triggered the trough monitor alarm when she officially opened 10 relocatable cabins in Raukokore on the East Cape.  A further 18 relocatable cabins will be added by the end of 2020.

Raukokore is a small settlement located on State Highway 35, close to the mouth of the Raukokore River, 40 kilometres to the west of Hicks Bay.

It has a population of 307, our search showed.

How many of them are unhoused and where these unhoused families are sleeping at nights was not explained.  But Mahuta said the relocatable cabins “will help move Raukokore whānau into kāinga and connect them to their ancestral whenua”.

“This initiative is a practical example of this Government’s newly launched Te MAIHI o te Whare Māori – the Māori and Iwi Housing Innovation Framework for Action (MAIHI) and highlights the new approach to partnering with Māori to realise their housing dreams,” said Minister Mahuta. 

The relocatable modular cabins are being provided through funding by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development.

The cost wasn’t mentioned in Mahuta’s statement, either.

But the initiative is being complemented by $17.3 million funding received through the Provincial Growth Fund for economic growth and employment opportunities in the area, “enabling more whānau to move back to Raukokore and warm, safe homes”.

At first blush, this suggests the people who will live in the cabins are not now living in Raukokore, which in turn suggests Raukokore might not actually have a housing shortage.

Mahuta went on to say:

“Raukokore is the heart of Te Whānau a Maruhaeremuri and like many areas in rural Aotearoa, suffers from no housing supply. These relocatable cabins will mean whānau who are living in unsuitable conditions can move into warm, safe and secure accommodation.” 

In other words, if there is a housing shortage in this settlement of 307 people, it is being addressed through the provision of portable cabins. And if more people move back to Raukokore because of the employment  opportunities stimulated by the PGF, the housing shortage will be exacerbated, which means even more cabins will be required.

Taxpayers will be funding the economic development that provides work, and then they will pay for the cabins to house the workforce drawn to the settlement by the economic development.

Through Budget 2020 – by the way – the Government invested $570m to deliver 6,000 “public houses” and 2,000 transitional housing places over the next four to five years.

All going well, not too much DIY work will be required by the new occupants of the cabins.

But elsewhere around the country, homeowners, DIYers and builders are set to save both time and money from today as rules that make basic home improvements easier and cheaper take effect.

Announcing this, Building and Construction Minister Jenny Salesa said:

“Exemptions to the Building Act, which remove the need for a consent for low-risk building works, mean less red tape and lower compliance costs for homeowners.

“It means certain structures can be built for less without any unexpected hold-ups that may have resulted from needing building consent. And it will also help to improve the productivity of the building and construction sector, supporting the COVID-19 recovery.”  

The new exemptions cover single-storey detached buildings up to 30 square metres – including sleep-outs, sheds and greenhouses; as well as carports, awnings, and outdoor fireplaces.

Each year, the changes are expected to result in 9,000 fewer consents for councils to process, and could save homeowners up to $18 million in costs.

The exemptions are part of a reform programme which includes the Construction Sector Accord Transformation Plan, the Construction Skills Action Plan, Building Law reforms, the Building Levy reduction and the recently announced Building for Climate Change programme.

Guidance around the new exemptions can be found here

Our “Latest from Parliament” report has been gleaned from these press statements –

31 AUGUST 2020

Government response to the EQC Inquiry released

EQC’s operations and legislation will change in response to the Inquiry into the Earthquake Commission, undertaken by Dame Silvia Cartwright.

Further tsunami detection buoys deployed

Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters and Civil Defence Minister Peeni Henare welcome the deployment of five more DART (Deep-ocean Assessment and Reporting of Tsunami) buoys.

East Cape whānau develop affordable housing solution

New relocatable cabins will help move Raukokore whānau into kāinga and connect them to their ancestral whenua, says Associate Minister of Housing (Māori), Nanaia Mahuta.

Home improvements cheaper as building consent rules relaxed

Homeowners, DIYers and builders are set to save both time and money from today as rules that make basic home improvements easier and cheaper take effect, Building and Construction M

30 AUGUST 2020

Passing of New Zealand Consul-General to French Pacific

Minister of Foreign Affairs Winston Peters has commended the life and work of Bruce Shepherd, New Zealand’s Consul-General to New Caledonia, French Polynesia and Wallis and Futuna who passed away in Noumea yesterday.

29 AUGUST 2020

Acknowledgment of Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has today paid tribute to Japan’s outgoing Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

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