Controversial Christchurch earthquake laws passed

JOHN HARTEVELT
Last updated 18:02 14/04/2011

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Controversial earthquake recovery laws have been passed by Parliament.

The Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Bill passed its third and final reading by 109 votes to 11 this evening, at the end of a whirlwind three day legislative process.

The final stages of the bill today were mired in controversy after the Government could not produce its changes to the bill until well in to the afternoon.

Labour and the Green Party put up a series of their own amendments, which were voted down by the Government. However, after select committee hearings in Christchurch yesterday, Government officials worked until 4am this morning choosing 32 out of about 100 suggestions to accept. The Government tonight passed its own amendments to match.

The bill establishes the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) and empowers it to lead reconstruction efforts in Christchurch.

It gives Cera specific powers to get information from any source, to requisition and build on land and to carry out demolitions. It can also take over local authorities if they are not working effectively on recovery work.

"I have great confidence that this bill does provide the sort of framework we need to effect a solid recovery in the greater Christchurch area," Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee said.

Despite strong criticism of the Bill, Labour voted for it.

Labour's spokesman Clayton Cosgrove said the bill provided "war-time powers" to the Government, but the process of passing it had been "botched".

"Labour is supporting the legislation but we are deeply concerned about the obscene way it has been rushed through Parliament by Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee without the proper checks and balances," he said.

"We had a chance to get this critically important piece of legislation right. That opportunity has been wasted by Gerry Brownlee who was just hell-bent on ramming through a law without proper scrutiny.

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