Parliament passes emergency earthquake bill

10:30 pm on 14 September 2010

Parliament has passed legislation that gives the Government new powers to fast-track reconstruction in earthquake-hit Canterbury.

All parties agreed to support the introduction of the Canterbury Earthquake Response and Recovery Bill without the House going into urgency on Tuesday.

The legislation allows the Government to use Orders in Council to suspend current laws if needed and permit re-building work to be fast-tracked following the 7.1-magnitude quake that hit Canterbury on 4 September.

Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee told Parliament the Government does not want reconstruction work held up or stopped by the need to fill out paperwork.

Opposition parties have thrown their support behind the legislation, but have warned the substantial powers it will confer on government ministers will have to be used carefully.

The Green Party put up a number of amendments to the bill which were unsuccessful. They included a six-month sunset clause and a requirement that Orders in Council are made public within 24 hours and tabled in the House on the next sitting day.

A state of emergency in Canterbury is due to be lifted on Wednesday.

The emergency law will remain in place until April 2012.

Quality won't be sacrificed - Govt

The Government says the emergency legislation will not mean the quality of the reconstruction work is sacrificed. It says current laws covering building, transport and other key infrastructure do not allow for emergency situations.

The new law will allow ministers to make legal exemptions through Orders in Council. However, the Government says it will not mean that work will not be carried out to a lower standard.

Labour Party leader Phil Goff says his party supports the legislation but has secured extra provisions so any exemptions made will be open to the scrutiny of Parliament.

Mr Goff says Labour recognises the need for reconstruction work to proceed quickly. But he says it is important to maintain the highest possible standards.

Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee says speculation about the quality of the land where some subdivisions were built in Christchurch could be damaging to the value of the properties.

Mr Brownlee says the subdivisions were approved and looking back and saying it should not have happened will not help owners now.