Justice Minister Andrew Little has introduced the Canterbury Earthquakes Insurance Tribunal Bill to Parliament.
The bill establishes the Canterbury Earthquakes Insurance Tribunal, which is intended to provide speedy, flexible, and cost-effective services to help resolve insurance claims between policyholders and insurers (including Southern Response Earthquake Services Limited) and insured persons and the Earthquake Commission under the Earthquake Commission Act 1993.
Claims must relate to damage to residential buildings, property, or land caused by the series of Canterbury earthquakes that occurred in 2010 and 2011. "Insurance claim" is defined in the bill as including a claim by a policyholder under a contract of insurance with an insurer or a claim made by an insured person under the Act.
The Tribunal will be an independent judicial body. It will only be able to consider claims between policyholders and insurers or insured persons and the Earthquake Commission. It will decide claims based on existing law and (if relevant) the terms of the insurance contract between the parties.
The bill provides that the Tribunal will not consider claims relating to properties that have been sold following the damage to which the claim relates, because these types of claims are novel and legally complex and will continue to be considered by the courts.Where a claim has already been filed in the court, policyholders and insured persons will be able to apply for the claim to be transferred to the tribunal.
Policyholders, insurers, insured persons, and the Earthquake Commission can still file claims about their insurance disputes with the courts or access any other dispute resolution services that are available.
Much of the bill will come into force by Order in Council, with a final commencement date of 25 March 2019.