The operation to reinforce damaged houses in the earthquake zone is still not going smoothly. Former director of the implementing organization, Peter Spijkerman, thinks it is possible that all buildings will be reinforced by 2028. But that it takes too long frustrates him. Spijkerman was questioned on Thursday by the committee of inquiry that is investigating gas extraction.
In total, more than 27,000 potentially unsafe addresses must be assessed. The State Supervision of Mines (SodM) warned in June that the operation will not be completed in 2028 at the current pace. Last year, about 650 buildings were reinforced.
Nevertheless, Spijkerman thinks that there is a good chance that this goal will be achieved. But he believes that the way of assessment will help them catch the group that probably need to be strengthened sooner, he expects. Although, according to Spijkerman, no “big crazy things” should happen, such as opening the gas tap further or a very heavy earthquake.
Spijkerman was appointed in 2018 as director of the National Coordinator Groningen (NCG). Previously, this was no more than a management organization, but in Spijkerman’s time the NCG became the organization that actually had to carry out the reinforcements. The Nederlandse Aardolie Maatschappij (NAM) was taken out of the process and the state has held public responsibility ever since.
The pessimism of the Groningers contrasts with Spijkerman’s optimism. Why are they disappointed, the committee asks? “A lot of houses have simply not been reinforced yet. Then it is logical that they are very dissatisfied, but I can’t break an iron with my hands”, the former director answers.
Spijkerman does think that the Groningers are right. “Of course it takes way too long. This is also my frustration, which got under my skin.”
The reinforcement operation
Total work stock: More than 27,000 addresses. Completed: About 6,000 addresses. Of these 6,000 addresses, about 2,600 had to be reinforced. At more than 8,000 addresses, the recording and assessment is not yet ready. More than 10,000 addresses are in the planning phase.
Any more addresses on the list?
In his interrogation, Spijkerman also explains that the NCG still does not have a full view of the reinforcement operation. There are still about eight thousand assessments to be done. In addition, addresses can still be added to this list.
Spijkerman is also very concerned about the more than ten thousand addresses that are still on the list to be addressed. That approach is stalling because of the reassessments that are taking place.
Two reorganisations have also delayed the reinforcement operation in recent years, says the former director. Furthermore, the many policy changes did not help, according to Spijkerman. “It happened with good intentions, but as a performer I need rest.”
Chairman of the damage settlement counter contradicts criticism
In the morning, before the interview with Spijkerman, the committee discussed the claims handling process. Bas Kortmann, chairman of the Groningen Mining Damage Institute (IMG) had to testify. The IMG is the independent and independent administrative body that handles the damage, since the NAM no longer plays a role.
The IMG, formerly the Temporary Committee on Mining Damage Groningen (TCMG), was established in 2018. The body has now settled about 280,000 claims and paid out approximately 1.5 billion euros.
However, there is also criticism of the IMG. Former secretary of interest group the Gasberaad, Susan Top, spoke in her own interrogation of “old wine in new bottles”. Kortmann disagrees. He points out that the NAM paid only 400 million euros in the six years that it dealt with the damage itself.
‘When in doubt, the victim gets the advantage’
Kortmann also finds the criticism that the claims settlement is not handled generously is unjustified. “We are pushing the limits of the law in many places,” he says. In this way, when in doubt, they give the advantage to the victim.
All but one of the IMG’s ratings are satisfactory. In addition to physical damage, the organ also regulates immaterial damage. People who experience suffering that cannot be expressed in money can claim this.
Many people are dissatisfied with this compensation scheme. According to Kortmann, this is because there are wrong expectations. “Not everyone who grieves has immaterial damage.”
Kortmann acknowledges that the IMG actually still has too few powers and budget to properly arrange claims handling. This is partly because the law stipulates that they only resolve damage for which the liability lies with NAM. As a result, there is no room to do more.
Kortmann gives as an example a street with five houses, of which damage has been established in four that can be recovered from the NAM. “A driver will then often have the freedom to take them all, but we do not have that authority.”