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Images of early New Zealand

A Short History of EQC

Over the years, the body now known as the Earthquake Commission (EQC), has undergone several metamorphoses, indicated by its various changes of name. It started life as the War Damage Commission, became the Earthquake and War Damage Commission and is now simply known as the Earthquake Commission.

The decision to cover earthquake risk, as well as war damage, which led to the formation of the Earthquake and War Damage Commission, was taken because of a need laid bare by the Wairarapa Earthquake of 1942. Unlike war damage insurance, earthquake cover was voluntary at the time and, as a result, most property was uninsured. Many buildings damaged in the quake had still not been repaired a year or so afterwards, largely because the owners couldn't afford to pay for repairs. The existence of a substantial war damage fund brought a demand for its use.

Earthquakes and other natural disasters are not new to the New Zealand landscape, and the new country had suffered a number of large and, in some cases, tragic natural disasters as part of the way of life associated with these two small islands at the bottom of the South Pacific Ocean.

To understand the environment that gave rise to the formation of EQC, we have to understand the history of the natural disasters that have occurred here.

The periods of time over which the catalogue of historical events occurred are analysed in the sections below:

  1. Pre 1900
  2. 1900 to 1942
  3. 1942 to the present day
  4. How EQC now manages the Natural Disaster Fund (NDF)

Napier 1931 earthquake damage

The destruction suffered by the city of Napier after the tragic earthquake of 1931

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