This page explains what’s proposed in the Canterbury Earthquakes Insurance Tribunal Bill being considered by Parliament. The Bill is subject to the Parliamentary process and may change.
The Bill will establish a tribunal to provide Canterbury homeowners with an efficient and flexible option to resolve long-standing insurance claims, and help them move on with their lives.
The Bill lets eligible homeowners decide whether the tribunal is the right option for them. It provides another way to make progress with insurance claims, and an outcome for those who choose to have their claims heard.
The tribunal’s final form will be known once the Bill is passed; a tribunal Chair is appointed; and practice notes are developed to provide the specifics of how the tribunal will operate.
A tribunal is an independent judicial body set up to deal with particular issues, whereas the courts have wider general jurisdiction. Like courts, tribunals find facts, apply the law and make reasoned, binding decisions.
In the courts, the parties try to make the most compelling argument for their case. Tribunals tend to use a more informal approach, examining the available information, talking to the parties directly, and sometimes asking for more evidence, to get to the right outcome.
Tribunals can provide a lower-cost outcome because their proceedings are often faster and less formal than the courts.
The tribunal as proposed will only consider residential insurance claims related to the Canterbury earthquakes of 2010 and 2011. The Bill proposes that homeowners (called ‘policyholders’ or ‘insured persons’ in the Bill) can apply to the tribunal if:
This includes first-time settlement claims, as well as claims re-opened due to the discovery of additional earthquake damage or deficient repairs.
The tribunal will not consider other types of insurance disputes, such as claims related to Kaikōura or other natural disasters.
Insurers and EQC will not be able to file claims with the tribunal.
The Bill recognises the Government’s priority is to resolve long-standing claims from the Canterbury earthquakes so homeowners can move on with their lives. Focusing exclusively on these claims will allow the tribunal to provide faster outcomes for eligible homeowners, many of whom have been waiting a long time for an outcome.
No, not as proposed. Many of the disputes involving on-sold properties – those sold since the damage occurred – are highly complex and may raise new legal questions that don’t yet have answers. Keeping these disputes outside the tribunal will help ensure they don’t delay resolution of other claims.
The tribunal as proposed will only consider claims between homeowners and insurers or the EQC. However, the Bill gives the tribunal the option to ‘join’ (or add) other potentially liable parties (such as builders) to a case where this could settle the claim faster or make the process fairer.
For example, if an insurer managed repairs to a home and the work was believed to be deficient, the builder who performed the repairs could be joined to the homeowner’s claim. The builder would be required to participate in tribunal proceedings, and would be subject to the tribunal’s decision.
The Bill recognises that many homeowners with unresolved claims have been through a long and frustrating process. It empowers homeowners to decide if the tribunal is the right option for them.
While it’s proposed that only homeowners can initiate the process, tribunal proceedings will be independent and impartial. Insurers will still be able to file claims with the courts, and access other dispute resolution services - these options remain available for everyone.
Homeowners can ask the courts to have their claim transferred to the tribunal.
The courts can also transfer cases to the tribunal, if it is in the interests of justice to do so.
Insurers will not be able to ask for a claim to be transferred to the tribunal, but they will need to agree to its transfer if they filed the original claim with the courts.
The tribunal will be in Christchurch.
The Bill must be passed before the tribunal is established, so final timing is not yet known. However, Budget 2018 set aside money to establish the tribunal, allowing the Ministry to begin preparations so the tribunal can be operational as soon as practicable once the Bill is passed.
Information typically required by a tribunal to support a claim includes:
The Tribunals page will have information on the application process and requirements, once known.
No, legal representation will not be necessary. It will be up to homeowners to decide whether they would like to engage a lawyer.
Free legal services are available through resources like Community Law(external link).
The Bill proposes the application process be fee-free. However, anyone choosing to engage other services, for example a lawyer, will need to pay for those services.
The Bill proposes a tribunal process that is flexible by providing different pathways to resolve a claim depending on the claim’s circumstances and history. It will also be proactive by managing timeframes to move claims forward.
Even once the Bill is passed, some of the details of the tribunal’s workings won’t be finalised until the Chair is in place and practice notes are developed to provide the specifics of how the tribunal will operate.
The proposed process centres around direct discussions between a tribunal member, the homeowner, their insurer and any other involved parties. These discussions are called Case Management Conferences and they could occur as often or as little as needed to clarify issues and progress claims.
Following an initial case management conference, the tribunal will have a variety of options it can use to resolve claims.
The tribunal proposed in the Bill includes an independent, funded mediation service. The mediation service will be provided by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, which is experienced in delivering mediation.
Mediation is a confidential process that gives parties the opportunity to work with a trained mediator to either reach a resolution between themselves, or narrow the points of dispute.
Mediation can take place at any point before hearing. It will be up to the tribunal to decide whether to refer parties to mediation.
If the parties agree a settlement at any point during the tribunal process, including at mediation, the Bill allows for the terms of the settlement to be recorded as a formal decision which can be enforced as a District Court order.
If a settlement is not reached through case management conferences or mediation, the claim will go to hearing.
The tribunal will decide claims based on existing law and precedent, and relevant insurance contract terms.
The Bill provides the tribunal with powers like that of a court. The proposed tribunal can:
No appointments have been made yet.
The Chair and members will be appointed by the Governor-General on the advice of the Minister for Courts, once the Bill is passed.
Tribunal hearings are usually public unless there is a strong reason for a hearing, or part of a hearing, to be private.
The tribunal writes up its decision following the hearing, and provides it to the parties involved in the claim. Written decisions are published unless there is a strong reason for a decision, or part of a decision, to remain private.
That is difficult to know because every claim will be different.
The proposed tribunal will be able to set timeframes that must be followed, and it will actively manage cases to keep claims progressing. The tribunal will also be able to adjust its resources in response to need. These things should contribute to an efficient process for homeowners.
The Bill provides for an appeals process. Decisions could be appealed to the High Court on any grounds (fact or law), if agreed by the High Court. Subsequent appeals would be available on matters of law only.
The Canterbury Earthquakes Insurance Tribunal Bill has been introduced to Parliament. The next step is the Bill’s first reading, and then consideration by Select Committee.
After Select Committee, the Bill must be debated two more times in the House before it’s passed and becomes law.
This process ensures that the Bill is subject to public debate and scrutiny and everyone has the opportunity to provide input and improve the Bill.
People will have the opportunity to comment on details of the Bill while it’s with Select Committee.