Allegations of EQC favouritism, bias and nepotism
By Melanie Reid
A 3D investigation has uncovered allegations of nepotism and rudeness at the Earthquake Commission (EQC) in Christchurch, with a young EQC claims assessor the subject of numerous complaints and facing an internal inquiry.
She was involved in crucial assessments on earthquake compensation claims and now has multiple complaints against her.
In 2011 Nikki Kettle was employed by the EQC in Christchurch on a salary well into six figures – not bad when you're in your mid-20s.
Ms Kettle worked as an assessor, making what's known as "field assessments" and dealing with claimants. Internal documents show the EQC hourly pay rates back then; along with big money there were claims of nepotism and even an "EQC royal family".
Mother Gail Kettle, ex-ACC, has one of the top jobs in EQC as the general manager of customers and claims.
Some 15 months after the first Christchurch earthquake, the number of assessors and estimators was slashed from 500 to just 120, and the salaries reduced from around $175,000 to $115,000 per annum.
Nikki and the son of an EQC senior manager survived and kept their jobs.
Soon after, early in 2012, Nikki started a building company while still employed with EQC. It was bound to raise questions of a conflict of interest – the company that she set up with an EQC colleague was called Re-Built Project Management.
"She registered a potential conflict of interest and then it was managed, so there was; it was registered and we dealt with it," says EQC CEO Ian Simpson.
Nikki survived the conflict of interest investigation, and, while there are those who support her and say she is good at her job, there are clearly those who don't. She is now facing another investigation following a number of complaints from the public.
"It's been my experience with her that she is confrontational and certainly making decisions, particularly around foundations, that are just way outside her work station and way outside the building code," says complainant John Maio.
"I thought she had some sort of engineering degree," says homeowner Mark Wilson. "However, the more you listened to what she was saying, the more you realised it was all bluff and bravado and there was no substance behind it."
"I laid a complaint about her behaviour and I refused to come back with her on-site," says Suzy Hamilton.
Watch the video for the full 3D report.