Knight falls on sword – what now for EQC?
Megan Woods’ pursuit of progress on outstanding Earthquake Commission claims related to the Canterbury quakes now has a high-profile casualty. But was it necessary? David Williams reports.
Just over a year ago, Sir Maarten Wevers and Megan Woods clashed at Parliament.
Woods, then an opposition Labour MP, was part of the Parliament’s Finance and Expenditure Committee reviewing the Earthquake Commission’s (EQC) performance.
Following the 2016 Kaikoura earthquakes, EQC’s coffers were bare and its claims liabilities were put at $2.3 billion. A new arrangement meant private insurers would handle claims on behalf of EQC. A restructure meant 380 staff had left two months earlier. A day before the parliamentary hearing, the board announced Sid Miller, from ACC, would take over as chief executive after the departure of long-time boss Ian Simpson.
In short, there were big, meaty issues in front of the committee.
Woods was the first member to ask questions of EQC board chairman Wevers and the commission’s management. She focused on an embarrassing IT security breach.
“Can you please go through and tell us exactly what was the consequence of that Ransomware attack?” she asked Wevers. “What data was released and breached? And what personal details were possibly leaked as a result of that breach?”
Wevers said he didn’t have details but was happy to provide a written response. Acting CEO Bryan Dunne said as far as he was aware no personal details were released in the Ransomware attack – and that a written response would be forthcoming.
“That would be great,” Woods said. “I do require that.”
She then asked about privacy incidents, saying: “At a time where the commission’s constantly telling us that the number of claims is scaling down, it seems odd that you’re having a record number of privacy issues.”
Given those testy exchanges, the post-election relationship between Woods, the EQC minister, and Wevers, the board chair, was always going to be interesting.
Wevers, head of the EQC board for five-and-a-half years, is a high-powered bureaucrat, having been ambassador to Japan, high commissioner to Papua New Guinea, and the chief executive of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC) from 2004 until 2012.
Woods portrayed herself publicly during the election campaign as a woman of action, who wanted to bang on tables and get things done.
A showdown loomed – and it didn’t take long to play out publicly.
Knight falls on his sword and rightly so:
Woods called a press conference yesterday to explain why Wevers, the knight, fell on his sword.
(EQC’s deputy chair Mary-Jane Daly is the interim chair until a permanent appointment is made.)
Perhaps he should have done a better job for the city and the region?