Dear Mr Staples:

By Bill Kaye-Blake 28/03/2013 2


I have been following with interest the recent news regarding an email you received. Yesterday, I received my own email from EQC — delivered to the correct address — to the effect that you were demanding full payment from EQC in return for building services rendered. In return, you have pledged not to pursue your interest in a certain spreadsheet any further.

It occurred to me that you might have access to information that I would find valuable and useful. I have had several assessors come through my house, making comments and jotting down notes. However, no one has given me a complete record of the work to be done and the estimated costs. Now that I have opted out of the Fletcher programme — due to their complete inflexibility — I am being asked to buy a ‘pig in a poke’: an unspecified repair job to an unknown value. It would be very nice to know something about said pig.

It also occurred to me that you are having trouble with the authorities. EQC has now laid a police complaint. The situation described in the email that I received from EQC did sound a bit like blackmail: ‘Do as I say and I won’t show anyone this little spreadsheet.’ (Wasn’t that the plot of a Tom Cruise film?) But then, certain allegations made about you earlier in the week sounded a lot like libel, so I fear my understanding of legal nuances is not equal to the situation.

I would suggest that we may have what economists call a double coincidence of wants. I would like to propose a possible arrangement between us. If you could see fit to send me just one row of a certain spreadsheet — I can advise you the row — I would happily contribute to any legal defence fund that may be required to extract you from the current difficulties. At a pro-rata amount of $100 per household affected, your fund could be over $8 million. From my perspective, it would be money well spent.

Yours sincerely,


2 Responses to “Dear Mr Staples:”

  • If the EQC contracted / employed the assessors then the assessment is arguably independent. If this is so, what right does the EQC then have to then enter into negotiations (arguably one sided and with assymetric information) that from Mr Staples revelations, end up well below the assessment values?

    We all have bought into the idea that the EQC would undertake a comprehensive and independent assessment of our damage and pay it out. By all means review the methods of assessments and audit the process but in the end there should be no negotiation necessary between the resident and EQC.

    Who is being screwed here? It sure ain’t the insurance companies.

    As a tax paying citizen I woould have no problem paying a special levy into a fund for events like this. It would have a clean and focused purpose.

    • It’s too late to fix EQC for Christchurch. But I’m still amazed that National hasn’t bothered getting onto it for the next event. Last I’d heard, there was basically no reinsurance cover in place – a couple billion. And there’s nothing left in the bank. So when Wellington falls over and broken gas lines turn it into a firestorm, fixing it will fall entirely on central government.

      We have to get this fixed soon.

      One option: scrap the current model and say instead that EQC covers X as the excess for covered events on your private insurance policy. Figure out how much reinsurance EQC can get. Divide that by the number of likely claimants in the next event. Turn that into the new EQC excess. Experience-rate the insurers so that ones who look to be giving everybody a free paintjob up to the EQC excess pay much higher premiums thereafter. Maybe have a few spot-check audits across the different insurers. Otherwise, EQC just writes a cheque to the insurer to cover the homeowner’s excess for the event and the homeowner only deals with the insurer. Advantage: one point of contact for the claimant, one person to blame, and pretty much no administrative role for EQC other than cutting cheques. They can manage that, right?

      On the Staples case: there’s at least some chance (I have no clue how high a chance) that EQC was simply taking the likely cost of $30k, adding in contingency in case they also needed to do other unanticipated work, then putting that up as an upper bound estimate for the property.