New authority to lead rebuilding of Christchurch

8:45 pm on 29 March 2011

The Government has announced the details of a new authority to lead the rebuilding of earthquake-hit Christchurch.

The stand-alone Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority, or CERA, has been given wide powers to relax, suspend or extend laws and regulations in order to help the region recover.

It has been established for five years but will be reviewed annually.


Based in Christchurch, its main task will be to rebuild the city, with particular emphasis on the eastern suburbs and getting general services restored to that area.

The Christchurch City Council has been asked to lead the Central Business District recovery plan.

Deputy State Services Commissioner John Ombler will serve as the authority's interim chief executive from Wednesday pending a permanent appointment, expected to be made in about two months.

Mr Ombler says he intends to keep the authority as small and agile as possible and use as many local people as it can.

He acknowledges that its powers are extensive but says they need to be tied back to legislation that is specific about the purposes of the recovery.

'Extraordinary' powers required - PM

Making the announcement, Prime Minister John Key said the rebuilding task is clearly too large to be completed by existing institutions and that extraordinary powers are required for extraordinary times.

Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee said there will be many checks and balances to make sure the authority uses its powers correctly.

Mr Brownlee says CERA will have about 40 to 50 staff but will not be drawn on the costs of the authority, other than agreeing that the budget will be in the millions of dollars.

A four-person independent review panel chaired by a retired High Court judge will also be appointed to assess all legislative and regulatory changes.

Legislation empowering CERA will be introduced in Parliament in coming weeks.

Guided by responses to other disasters

Mr Key says the structure of the authority was decided upon after looking at the way other governments responded to major disasters such as Hurricane Katrina in the United States and the recent floods in Queensland.

Mr Brownlee says it was decided on in consultation with senior local government leaders.

A key early step, he says, will be creating a Community Forum with 20 Canterbury people - possibly more - drawn from interest groups to advise the authority.

He admits the selection will be difficult but says it will allow communities to have their say.

The chair of the Burwood Pegasus Community Board, Linda Stewart, is already putting her hand up to be part of the forum.

Ms Stewart says community consultation is critical if the Government wants to successfully rebuild the city, and it's essential that the forum educate people so they understand what is practical and what isn't.

Council to lead CBD plan

Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker says he is relieved his council will lead the rebuilding of the city centre.

Mr Parker says it is important to the city that it be trusted with major parts of the rebuild, and the authority will help restore Canterbury's economic contribution to the nation.

A 7.1-magnitude quake hit Canterbury on 4 September last year, followed by a 6.3 quake on 22 February that caused severe damage and loss of life.