Government approach earthquake issues drives performers crazy

Employees of agencies dealing with gas extraction damage in Groningen are frustrated by the extremely difficult course of the gas extraction damage. They call the system devised by the government maddening and the welfare of the injured Groninger would not come first.

Researchers from the University of Groningen spoke to dozens of people who hold key positions at responsible bodies between February and September 2020. These include municipalities, ministries and the National Coordinator Groningen (NCG).

Among other things, the interviewees complain about the multitude of organisations with different interests. One instance looks purely and exclusively at the physical condition of a dwelling based on calculation models. The other wraps the damage, without verifying whether a whole house needs to be strengthened at a later stage.

Financial interests

The researchers call it striking that no one in the region has the mandate to work with the property. The NCG will have to make sure that the unsafe house is strengthened once all the investigations are completed. But the researchers were told that in practice the NCG does not have that mandate and should โ€œask for money for every addressโ€ at the Ministry.

The performers indicate that money is also an obstacle in other ways. They say that cooperation often goes wrong because it involves too much money. โ€œThere are so many interests, it is about so much money, it is not about millions, it is about billions,โ€ one of them describes. And these interests, according to various professionals, lie with the Empire, the earthquake municipalities, the province, but also with engineering firms and consultants.

NAM not remotely

The report confirms the distrust of Groningens victims in the influence of the gas extraction company NAM. Also many professionals experience that the NAM is still involved in the settlement of the damage. This despite the commitments made by the gas extraction company and Eric Wiebes, until recently Minister for Economic Affairs, that this is not the case.

One of the respondents explained this in more detail: โ€œIt can be removed from the system, but it is still a party because it is the cause of injury. So legally you cannot bypass NAM at all. […] The NAM is not out of the system at all, but is simply made more invisible.โ€

The NAM did not want to participate in the investigation of the RUG. It is argued that for some time the company has been completely remote from the claims settlement and the reinforcement in Groningen.

Payment Affair Agreements

According to one of the researchers, Professor of Social Psychology Tom Postmes, there are many similarities with the parliamentary inquiry into the payment affair. โ€œCitizens are not sufficiently in the picture. Signals from performers do not come up. They indicate that they are unable to explain the decisions of the ministries concerned to residents. But our research adds something new: this is also a tragedy for professionals.โ€

Postmes notes that everyone who spoke to them, both at regional and national level, tries to do the right thing in their own way. โ€œBut they dont manage to get it done,โ€ says Postmes. โ€œI think that through our research some questions come into focus.โ€ But he doesnt have the solution either.

Red thread in the official Netherlands

Kirsten de Jong from Siddeburen is one of those victims. Since 2018, she already knows that her monumental farm needs to be strengthened. But she still has no idea what shes up to. She doesnt manage to take control of her own.

She, too, sees similarities with the childcare allowance. โ€œWhat has become particularly clear to me is that, above all, procedures and lawfulness are looked at and nobody dares to take responsibility to go against cases. I think that is the common thread in the Dutch civil servant,โ€ she says. โ€œMaking the organization so complicated that no one is specifically responsible or at least not accountable.โ€