Millions of dollars spent on communications experts and advertising could not prevent "conflicting and inadequate information" going out to quake-rattled Cantabrians, EQC admits.
Earthquake Commission (EQC) chairman Michael Wintringham yesterday told MPs at Parliament's finance and expenditure select committee the organisation offered "no excuse" for its shortcomings.
"Yes, we are frustrating and difficult to deal with and people get conflicting information and inadequate information and that will be sorted," he said.
In written answers to the committee, EQC said it spent $204,371 on the salaries of five communications, media and PR staff in the 2010/11 year.
An additional $3.8 million was spent over the same period on outside PR consultants, including $3m for a company called Niu Pacific.
Most of the amount paid to Niu Pacific ($2.5m) was for print advertising in relation to the quakes and storms, radio advertising, brochures and reports and the production of EQC safety vests.
Payments to 11 other PR and advertising firms were also made.
Labour earthquake recovery spokeswoman Lianne Dalziel said advertisements in the media with information about things like deadlines for claims were important.
But communication with people about "what's going on" had not been good enough.
"I don't blame EQC entirely for the challenge of the communication problem they've got, but what I do blame the Government for not co-ordinating a much better communication across all of the agencies that have to deal with the individual on the ground," Dalziel said.
"The failure of communication is the big-picture story."
In further written answers to the committee, EQC yesterday said it had received 2788 formal complaints relating to the Canterbury earthquakes – a figure Dalziel said was "the tip of a very deep iceberg".
While he admitted "teething problems," Wintringham said the EQC had overall "responded satisfactorily".
He rejected allegations of nepotism in the employment of staff at EQC.
Wintringham told MPs that out of a total work force of about 2000 people, only nine who had family relationships had been employed by EQC.
"A lot of this, when we grab hold of it, it just sort of starts to disappear ... The stories of nepotism, of mates, of hiring practices which according to my standards breach public sector standards of ethics and conduct, are either largely overrated or in most cases wrong," he said.
Also before the select committee yesterday, Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) chief executive Roger Sutton said there had been an effort to "have the land market flooded" with about 26,000 sections freed up for potential development.
"A lot of people want to stay close to where they're living and a lot of people in those red-zone areas are actually wanting to buy an existing house," Sutton said.However, Cera's research showed many people did not want to shift to a new house.
Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee said a target of 6000 out of the 26,000 properties had been set to go on the market by year end.
"That will require, in particular, the Christchurch City Council to sharpen up its consenting activities," he said.
While the Waimakariri and Selwyn District councils were "taking full advantage" of the opportunities to consent land for sale, the CCC was "a little light," he said.