The Earthquake Commission (EQC) was established by the Government in 1945 to provide earthquake and war damage cover for purchasers of fire insurance. Later, cover for other natural disasters was included and, later still, cover for war damage dropped. The modern EQC is a Government-owned Crown Entity.
For 60 years it has been collecting premiums from insured people and during that time a substantial nest egg against damage, called the Natural Disaster Fund, has built up.
There is currently around $5.4 billion in the Fund which is backed up by reinsurance from overseas groups and a Government Guarantee. The Government Guarantee ensures that EQC will always be able to meet its obligations, regardless of the circumstances.
EQC pays out on claims from New Zealand residential property owners for damage caused by earthquake, natural landslip, volcanic eruption, hydrothermal activity, tsunami; in the case of residential land, a storm or flood; or fire caused by any of these.
In a time of major disaster, such as a large earthquake, EQC works through its Catastrophe Response Programme (CRP). The CRP sets out how EQC will cope with the substantial increase in resources that will be required at such a time. The programme includes an alternative operations site and the provision of additional staff and equipment.
EQC also encourages and funds research about matters relevant to natural disaster damage and it educates and otherwise informs people about what can be done to prevent and mitigate damage caused by natural disasters.