New Zealand Law Society - Bill establishing Canterbury Earthquake Insurance Tribunal passed

Bill establishing Canterbury Earthquake Insurance Tribunal passed

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The Canterbury Earthquakes Insurance Tribunal Bill has received a third reading and will come into force on the day after it receives the Royal assent or 10 June 2019, whichever is the later.

The bill establishes the Canterbury Earthquakes Insurance Tribunal. The purpose of the tribunal is to provide fair, speedy, flexible and cost-effective services for resolving disputes about insurance claims for physical loss or damage to residential buildings, property and land arising from the Canterbury earthquakes.

Justice Minister Andrew Little says he expects the Tribunal will be up and running in mid-June.

“The Tribunal will be homeowner-led and will be able to tailor its approach to the needs of each case. Referral to an independent, funded mediation service will be one of the options available for resolving claims without the need for a formal hearing," he says.

“The Tribunal will now also be able to consider liability for earthquake damage that occurred after 2011 providing the initial damage occurred earlier. It means parties won’t have to go through a separate process to resolve damage from earthquakes after 2011.

“The Tribunal will have the ability to award general damages and costs, and to appoint independent expert advisers to help the Tribunal understand the technical aspects of a claim. There will be no fee to access the Tribunal, and homeowners will not need a lawyer to access it."

The Tribunal is empowered to make any order that a court of competent jurisdiction could make in relation to a claim over the terms of the contract of insurance in dispute between the parties, and the general law of New Zealand, particularly the law of contract as it relates to contracts of insurance and the Earthquake Commission Act 1993.

Clause 55 of the bill says the minimum number of members that must be appointed to the Tribunal is one. Each member is appointed by the Governor-General on the recommendation of the Minister of Justice. A chairperson must be appointed and is required to have held a New Zealand practising certificate as a barrister and solicitor for at least seven years.

Tribunal proceedings are judicial proceedings subject to appeal to the High Court, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court, and inquisitorial in nature.

Clause 39A empowers the Tribunal to, on its own initiative, seek and receive any evidence and make investigations and inquiries that it considers appropriate. It must disclose all such evidence and information to every party and allow each party to comment on it.

Tribunal decisions other than costs awards may be enforced as it they were orders of the District Court, except in specified circumstances.

Administrative support and staff will be provided by the Ministry of Justice. The ministry has provided information on the new legislation.

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