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Drainage claims

Earthquake damage relating to drainage can take several years to appear. You can ask to reopen a claim to repair drainage damage caused by the 2010-2011 Canterbury earthquake sequence if you have previously had an EQC claim, or have had an EQC claim transferred to you for a property you’ve purchased. 

After contacting EQC to reopen a drainage claim, your next step is to commission a registered drainlayer (registered with the Plumbers, Gasfitters and Drainlayers’ Board) to inspect your drains and provide their report to EQC.

The information provided on this webpage is specific to the Canterbury events and in accordance with the detailed provisions of the Earthquake Commission (EQC) Act 1993 (the Act) current at the time.

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Engaging a contractor

You may already have a drainage contactor that you want to work with, and we will support you to use your preferred registered contractor.

Engaging a contractor

If you don’t yet have a drainage contractor, you can find a list of registered local contractors here on the Plumbers, Gasfitters and Drainlayers Board (PGDB) website

We recommend you review PGDB’s Drainlayers Guide (PDF - 2.7MB) to ensure you have confidence in the service you are requesting and receiving, as well as their recommendations on hiring a contractor

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What are the costs involved?

You will need to pay for the initial drainage inspection report, and EQC will reimburse you for fair and reasonable inspection costs if the inspection confirms earthquake damage, in accordance with the EQC Act 1993 (the EQC Act).

Read more on costs

Settlement of damage

Once we have accepted your property has earthquake damaged drains and the proposed repair costs are fair and reasonable, we will confirm this in writing to you. You can then arrange for your registered drainlayer to repair your drains. When you send us evidence of completed repairs, along with the drainlayer’s invoice, we will pay you (or your mortgagee) within 7 working days. 

If further damage is discovered after the work has begun, please contact us immediately. If we determine the additional damage identified was caused by an earthquake or needs to be reinstated as part of the earthquake repairs in accordance with the EQC Act, we will confirm in writing we will cover the additional costs.

Earthquake damage to house

Indicators of earthquake damage to drains

While each claim is considered on a case-by-case basis, some indicators consistent with earthquake damage include:

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  1. Lateral or vertical displacement of pipes/joins
  2. Crushing damage to pipes
  3. Fracture damage to pipes/joins (identifiable as ‘new’ damage)
  4. Blockage of pipes due to earthquake damage

Earthquake damage is not consistent with:

  1. Wear and tear damage
  2. Gradual deterioration of pipes and joins
  3. Settlement/subsidence damage (unless clearly caused by earthquake related land movements)
  4. Historical tree root damage.
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Information for drainage contractors

Registered drainlayers inspecting for earthquake-damaged drains need to provide a report and recommended repair strategy for any earthquake damage.

More for contractors

EQC has a set of templates (in the links below) that can be used as a guideline when the registered drainlayer is preparing the drainage diagnostic assessment documents for your property:

Standard Drains – Instructions and Forms

Dependent Drains – Instructions and Forms

EQC will also accept drainage diagnostic assessments in different formats, if your chosen registered drainlayer opts not to use these templates. It is important the information we require is included in any assessment reports to prevent delays to your claim progressing.

Drainage Variation Request Form

This form is for registered drainlayers who have identified further costs during the repair of the drains. Please have your registered drainlayer complete this form.

Drainage Variation Request Form – Online Lodgement

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Drainage frequently asked questions

A variety of FAQs about EQC's drainage claim process.

View FAQs

Assessment of your drainage damage

How does EQC determine drain damage is earthquake damage?

EQC relies on information provided by registered drainlayers who take a video recording from inside your drains to identify any earthquake damage. We review the information provided to ensure it is a legal and appropriate repair strategy and the costs are fair and reasonable.

How does EQC determine whether a drain needs to be repaired or replaced?

EQC asks drainlayers who carry out inspections to provide us with a recommended repair strategy. 

Do customers have to pay for the inspections themselves?

Customers pay the inspection and report costs and if earthquake damage is confirmed, EQC reimburses customers the fair and reasonable costs of obtaining the report.

What are considered to be visual signs of pipe (lateral) damage caused by an earthquake?

Forms of damage that may be considered as earthquake-damaged breakages in pipes are defined as cracks along or around the pipes, split ruptures failure, and blockages from liquefaction.

Blockages: These can occur where there is liquefaction within pipes and there is no record of EQC having jetted the lines previously.

Vertical displacement:  This can occur where pipes have suffered vertical displacement and that movement can be distinguished from sinking or subsidence as the ground itself is known to have sunk due to earthquake damage (e.g. as evidenced by foundation movement).

Settlement of your drainage damage

In what circumstances would EQC not accept a claim?

1. The property was not at least 50% residential
2. The property did not have the appropriate insurance
3. The damage was not earthquake-related
4. The lateral damage is greater than 60 metres in a horizontal line, from the dwelling

I have had this work done already by a private contractor and paid for it myself, can I be reimbursed?

EQC may reimburse you to the extent it is liable under the EQC Act 1993, providing you can satisfy EQC that the damage was caused by an earthquake.

What happens if, after starting the repairs, more damage is discovered?

You must contact your settlement specialist/claim manager via the contact information you have been provided. If you can’t contact your settlement specialist/claim manager, please contact EQC by calling 0800 DAMAGE (0800 326 243) between 8:00am and 4:30pm, Monday to Friday, or emailing

If we agree the damage is earthquake damage, an additional payment may be available to cover additional costs in accordance with the EQC Act 1993.

A Drainage Variation Request form would have to be completed by your registered drainlayer and returned to EQC.

If I have received a settlement payment for land damage, will EQC make a further payment for drains damaged as a result of the earthquakes?

Yes, earthquake damaged drains are part of EQC’s cover for dwelling damage. Any land damage cover is dealt with separately.

What if repairing my drainage pushes my claim over the EQC liability cap?

EQC will work with you and your insurer to find the best solution

If my property is over the EQC liability cap and I have accepted a full and final cash settlement from my private insurer, who will cover the costs of repairing any drain damage that is found after accepting the offer?

If the dwelling damage exceeds EQC’s liability and you have been settled by your insurer, you will need to talk to your insurer.

Changes in ownership of your property

If I wasn’t the owner of the property at the time of the earthquakes, am I entitled to make a claim for drainage earthquake damage?

Yes, if you have been assigned the benefit of the claim from the previous owner of the property.

The documentation that is most commonly used for this is a Deed of Assignment, but any legal document can be used as long as it is clear about what has been assigned.

If I bought my property “as is, where is” post-earthquake, am I obliged to have any drainage damage repaired?

The Insurance Council of New Zealand (ICNZ) has advised that failing to repair damaged drains could affect future insurance cover for a property.

Drainage repairs

Am I required to use a registered drainlayer or could I do the work myself?

All drainage repairs should be carried out by a registered drainlayer.

If an area on my property needs to be dug up for repairs to earthquake-damaged drains to proceed, who pays for reinstatement?

EQC may pay for this cost (to the extent it is liable under the EQC Act 1993).

What if my earthquake-damaged drains are repaired, and then are damaged again in another earthquake event?

EQC would cover them again (to the extent it is liable under the EQC Act 1993). You would need to lodge a claim for new damage.

What human health risks might be associated with drainage damage?

If a damaged drain is not repaired, the land on your property could become contaminated over time. This is why fixing drainage damage is a priority.

Is there a time limit to repair damaged drains?

EQC recommends drains are repaired as soon as possible, to ensure your property’s Land Information Memorandum (LIM) can be updated and accurately reflect the condition of the drainage system on your property.

My drainage pipes seem to be fine. So what if they don’t get repaired?

EQC will settle on confirmation that repairs have been completed by a registered drainlayer.

Where does the homeowner’s sewer lateral drain end and where does the Council’s responsibility start?

Residents are responsible for the drains on the property up to the property boundary, and the Council is responsible for the drain from the property boundary to the sewer main on the public road.

Could my damaged drains be causing problems for my neighbours?

If you have shared drains, any damage could affect your neighbour’s drains. If left unrepaired, over time, your neighbour’s property could become contaminated. The same applies, of course, if your neighbour’s drains are damaged.

Shared Drains

My drain is shared with my neighbour/s. How did EQC determine the amount to repair my portion of the shared drain?

Calculations are based on an overall cost to repair the entire shared drain. The overall cost is then allocated to each property based on the one, or more, section(s) of the shared drain each property uses.

Because my drain is shared with other properties, will my repair have to be done at the same time as my neighbour/s?

This will be up to you and your neighbour(s). However, you and your neighbour(s) may wish to use one contractor to ensure the repairs on the whole drain for all properties are completed at the same time.

What if my neighbour’s property is overcap ($100k + GST)  and their drainage claim is with their insurance company? How might that affect me?

In this situation, providing your neighbour was insured, their contribution for repairing the shared drain may come from their private insurer. You would need to discuss this with your neighbour.

Would it be possible for my neighbour to use a different contractor to repair their section of the shared drain?

Yes. But using one contractor should mean repairs on all properties are completed at the same time. You may wish to consider discussing this with your neighbour.

What if my neighbour was not insured?

They would need to fund any contribution they have to make towards the cost  of repairing the shared drain themselves.

What if my neighbour refused to repair their section of the shared drain?

This would be a matter for you and your neighbour to resolve, and we recommend you seek independent professional advice.


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