The Earthquake Commission (EQC): Everything you need to know
Types of services: Natural disaster research, education and insurance
Head office: Wellington
The EQC is a New Zealand Crown entity established under the Earthquake Commission Act 1993. Its roots can be traced back to 1945, where it was founded as the Earthquake and War Damage Commission in response to the 1942 Wairarapa Earthquake.
The EQC began life as the War Damage Commission, and the organisation’s decision to also cover earthquake risk came in response to the 1942 Wairarapa Earthquakes, which hit the lower North Island throughout June and August and resulted in one death in Wellington. Earthquake cover was voluntary at the time, and, as a result, most properties were uninsured. This meant that many damaged buildings were not repaired for years afterwards, as most homeowners could not afford to pay for repairs. The existence of a substantial war damage fund fuelled significant demand for its use to remediate earthquake damage, and this gave life to the Earthquake and War Damage Commission – now known only as The Earthquake Commission.
The mandate of the EQC has changed significantly over the past 70 years. Its current role is laid out in section 5 of the Earthquake Commission Act, where its core functions are to provide natural disaster insurance for residential property, to administer the Natural Disaster Fund (NDF), and to fund research and education on natural disasters, and how to reduce their impact.
The Earthquake Commission in the news
1945: The Earthquake and War Damage Commission is founded in response to the 1942 Wairarapa Earthquake
1968: A magnitude 7 earthquake hits Inangahua, costing the EQC $2.4 million in damage repairs
1993: The Earthquake Commission Act is passed, resulting in the organisation as it exists today
2010: A magnitude 7.1 earthquake hits a rural location just outside of Christchurch, causing significant damage to rural homes
2011: A magnitude 6.3 earthquake hits close to Christchurch city, causing a huge amount of damage to city homes and claiming the lives of 185 people, with many more injuries
2018: A special insurance tribunal is announced by the government to resolve outstanding EQC claims arising from the Christchurch earthquakes
2019: EQC marks the 77th anniversary of the Wairarapa Earthquake which prompted to government to create the Earthquake and War Damage Commission
Key people as of 2019
Hon Grant Robertson – Minister
Robertson is the Minister responsible for the EQC, and is also Minister of Finance, Sport and Recreation, and Associate Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage. He is a Labour politician and is currently a Member of Parliament for Wellington Central. Robertson joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade in 1997, where he managed the New Zealand Overseas Aid Programme to Samoa. He then spent time at the UN in New York before returning to New Zealand, where he became an advisor to former Prime Minister Helen Clark.
Sid Miller – Chief Executive
Miller reports to Ministers and the public on EQC’s work, and most recently held the role of chief customer officer at ACC. He started his career in the Royal Air Force where one of his roles was Operations Manager for the Red Arrows Display Team, where he ultimately achieved the rank of Wing Commander. He is also a Chartered Mechanical Engineer, and spent time at the NHS in the UK before coming to New Zealand and entering the insurance sector.
Renée Walker – Deputy Chief Executive, Canterbury and External Affairs
Walker spent over 20 years in general management, marketing and stakeholder engagement roles before joining EQC, and spent a significant amount of time in claims and construction management at New Zealand’s largest private insurer, IAG. She was named a finalist in the Westpac Women of Influence Awards in 2016 in recognition of her work in the Christchurch earthquake recovery efforts.
The Natural Disaster Fund
The EQC manages New Zealand’s Natural Disaster Fund (NDF), which is maintained to ensure that claims can be paid out to people with home and contents insurance in the event of a natural disaster.
The fund has been built up by levies paid by New Zealanders as part of their home and contents insurance policies, and by investment returns from the fund. The fund had over $6.1 billion in accumulated funds in 2010 before the Canterbury and Kaikoura earthquakes, though the two combined events may use all of these reserves. The EQC increased its levy from November 01, 2017, and aims to rebuild the fund to $2 billion within 10 years assuming there are no major natural disasters.