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63-year-old still fighting for home repair

Four years and 88 house assessments since the September 2010 earthquake, Gavin Johnstone is still fighting to have his Mairehau home repaired.

Johnstone, who has impaired mobility due to a truck driving accident and cares for a terminally ill friend, said the stress had left them overwhelmed.

The 63-year-old tried to find a resolution through the High Court with the Earthquake Commission (EQC), and, after opting out, Southern Response.

He is among 62 Cantabrians whose treatment by insurers and construction companies has resulted in a human rights complaint to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

In Johnstone’s case, the complaint is against Arrow International Group Limited, which manages state-owned Southern Responses’ quake claims.

Johnstone’s first EQC inspection report, after the September 2010 earthquake, said the house foundations were fine, but after the February earthquake, a second inspection found the house “was just munted”, Johnstone said.

It found damage to several rooms, the brickwork and roof.

It said foundation damage required the house to be lifted and 14 piles and ring foundations replaced.

Since the first inspection was carried out, Johnstone has required engineers and other workers to sign a log-book before entering his property.

He has logged 88 entries – from EQC, Fletcher, Southern Response, Arrow and contractors – yet his house and foundations are still not repaired.

First he was told he was over cap, then he was told he was under cap. He opted out of the Fletcher repair programme, but the $92,000 payout was “nowhere near enough” for the job, he said.

Eventually, he took both Southern Response and EQC to court.

That was a year ago, and the High Court wrangling continues.

The mental and physical impact of the delays had been “enormous”, Johnstone said.

“All we want is our insurance policy to be honoured and our human rights to be respected,” Johnstone said.

Last month, on Johnstone’s behalf, the Wider Earthquake Community Action Network (WeCAN) filed a human rights abuse complaint against Arrow with the OECD. The OECD guidelines require multi-national corporations to respect the human rights of those affected by their activities.

The WeCAN complaint alleges violations of the right to dignity, health and adequate housing, caused by failure to start, complete or adequately repair his quake-damaged home.

Arrow said it was “in no position to comment” on the allegations made in the complaint, because of the ongoing litigation with Johnstone over his house claim.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, which handles the OECD complaints, said an initial complaint assessment would take about three months.

_Rick Jordan for The Press