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Fittings failures add to Wellington quake damage


Non-compliant restraints for air-conditioning, telecommunications and other fittings likely caused damage to commercial buildings in Wellington during this month’s Kaikoura earthquake, according to the Insurance Council of New Zealand (ICNZ).

“We believe many buildings have had these systems installed and [they] do not comply with New Zealand standard guidelines set for their installation,” CEO Tim Grafton said.

“Appropriately, there is a strong focus on engineering sign-off of structural elements in buildings, but there is little or no monitoring or thorough inspection of the non-structural elements.”

Non-structural seismic restraints hold air-conditioning, fire prevention, telecommunications, electricity and lighting equipment in ceiling cavities and other parts of a building. They can collapse and pose risks to life and property, ICNZ says.

Modeller AIR Worldwide estimates insured losses from the magnitude-7.8 quake on November 14 could range from $NZ1.15-$NZ5.3 billion ($1.05-$4.9 billion).

Vero says it has received more than 1000 claims and has set up an office in Kaikoura.

“It’s important we have a presence in Kaikoura so we can meet with our customers and arrange property assessments as soon as possible,” EGM Claims Jimmy Higgins said.

“We have many [lessons] from the Canterbury earthquake experience [of 2010/11] and our key goals are speed of response and communication to our customers.”

Mr Higgins says it is too soon to assess costs arising from the Kaikoura quake, but Vero – part of Suncorp Group – has reinsurance arrangements in place to cover all expected claims.

The Earthquake Commission (EQC) says its remedial work in Canterbury will be largely unaffected by the Kaikoura events. At the end of last month the EQC had about 5000 outstanding remedial requests, which it expected to reduce to about 3500 by the end of the year.

“The EQC is keeping its focus on remedial and other repair work in Canterbury, despite the need to also start planning for settling claims from the Kaikoura earthquakes,” GM Customer and Claims Trish Keith said.