Part 8: Lessons learned

Earthquake Commission: Managing the Canterbury Home Repair Programme - follow-up audit.

In this Part, we describe EQC's progress against our 2013 recommendation about lessons learned. We also identify what we consider to be the most important lessons.

We recommended that EQC identify and record the lessons, tools, and information from the programme that could usefully support responses to potential future large-scale natural disasters.

The Appendix provides further information on what we found and recommended in 2013 about lessons learned.


EQC has addressed our recommendation in part, but we anticipate that the recommendation will be addressed in full with the passage of time. To support this, EQC has started to capture the lessons it has learned from managing the programme and its wider work in Canterbury.

EQC is committed to improving so that it is better able to deal with large-scale events.

Improvements and continued activities


Since 2013, EQC has:

  • performed an internal audit examining EQC's progress against the recommendations in our 2013 report;
  • developed a plan for capturing lessons from the programme's senior managers;
  • emphasised the need for collaboration and alignment to make the relationship between EQC and EQR work; and
  • identified the challenges to its work posed by the current policy settings and fed these into the Treasury's review of the Earthquake Commission Act 1993.

Continued activities

Internal audit, reinsurer, and commissioned review work, such as the Linking Strategy to Implementation report, has continued to examine aspects of EQC's performance.

The Earthquake Commission is committed to learning from the programme

EQC is committed to improving so that it is better able to deal with large-scale events. EQC told us that its response to the 2013 Cook Strait and 2014 Eketahuna earthquakes are examples of this.

EQC has started to capture the operational lessons it has learned from managing the programme. EQC knows that it needed:

  • better planning (getting out of crisis mode earlier to review policies and practices); 28
  • expertise in dealing with people (and to know where to find this expertise in other government agencies and in community organisations);
  • integrated data and management systems throughout the organisation (and with its partners);
  • a clear understanding of governance and decision-making structures and constraints; and
  • joined-up communications from the partners involved to homeowners.

Importantly, EQC has recognised that a long and complex process to resolve claims has caused distress to homeowners and that this has been compounded by dissatisfaction with the quality of EQC's communications.

We agree that those lessons are important because they capture what we consider to be the main problems with EQC's management of the programme.

We have identified some other lessons:

  • As part of better planning, risks need to be anticipated and considered as early as possible. For example, EQC could have anticipated that there would be asbestos in residential buildings (and that this would have implications for repair work). It could have also anticipated the difficulties that vulnerable people would face. EQC acknowledges that it could have worked more closely with other agencies that provide support to vulnerable people.
  • Customer interactions are important. Homeowners need certainty and reliable information about their particular circumstances as quickly as possible.
  • As circumstances change, a programme such as this might also need to adapt and change, to make sure that it can still meet the programme's goals.
  • Setting broad and potentially competing programme goals makes it difficult for the programme operator and the public to be able to reach clear conclusions on the performance of the programme against those goals. This also limits the use of the programme's performance as a benchmark for any future programmes.

28: By crisis mode, we mean being entirely focused on immediate action without making time for disciplined and considered thought about how the operation might work beyond the present or immediate future.