'Wringing hands won't fix anything' - Gerry Brownlee rejects EQC cover-up

Former EQC Minister Gerry Brownlee has angrily rejected accusations the former Government concealed the extent of botched quake repairs in Christchurch.

The Government is considering re-checking 140,000 homes for damage after hundreds of owners claimed their repairs weren't up to standard, or bought houses that had reportedly been fixed, only to find the work was sub-standard and no one will pay to have it remedied.

EQC has apologised for the latter blunder, which one lawyer representing affected homeowners has estimated could cost billions.

"Hopefully the inquiry the Government's going to hold is going to uncover that," Andrew Hooker told The AM Show on Thursday.

"We don't know [how many], and that's why we need to do an audit to find out how bad the problem is."

He said in some cases, houses originally scoped at needing $300,000 were "downscoped to under $1000 - a bit of polyfilla and we're on the way".

Earlier this month The Press reported EQC had already spent $160 million fixing botched repairs, twice what it estimated two years earlier, and is considering legal action of its own against Fletcher Building.

Current EQC Minister Megan Woods said Mr Brownlee "wilfully underplayed" how bad the crisis was, and the Labour-NZ First coalition had inherited a "giant mess" from National.

In a text message sent to AM Show host Duncan Garner, Mr Brownlee said he "totally" rejects Ms Woods' accusation.

"We had over 11,000 earthquakes, we had 67,000 houses that were repaired. Something around $11 billion was about the last estimate of costs to date, and possible end costs that I recall seeing. It was up to June 2016, and it's on the EQC website. It's not hidden anywhere mate."

EQC's annual report for that year shows a total spend on Christchurch of $11.28 billion, with "adequate funds to continue to operate and to meet its financial obligations".

"It's just spin from Megan Woods saying she has asked Treasury to look into it and update an estimate," Mr Brownlee's message continued.

"Treasury are the monitoring agency for EQC and should have those numbers at their fingertips. Indeed they have. Another number of thousands of homes were rebuilt or repaired by private insurers. Yes Duncan, there are serious problems for too many people, but wringing hands won't fix anything. Governments have to step up and we did, actually - we did with South Canterbury Finance and AMI as well, the issue there which was an insurer in default. Those were billion-dollar decisions we took as a Government.

"We never quibbled with EQC's rising costs. It is what it is. The challenge in front of Megan Woods is difficult and complex. It is also for her a case of 'welcome to the last seven years'. Nothing about this has been easy and nothing will be. She should get on with it and stop softening people up for a less-than-satisfactory result."

It's not expected to be known who's legally responsible for paying to have botched repairs fixed in homes purchased after they were supposedly repaired until a case has gone to court.


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