Cera has enormous public relations team

GEORGINA STYLIANOU
Last updated 05:00 13/06/2014

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The Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) has the highest proportion of communications staff of any government department.

Last month, the State Services Commission issued its six-monthly snapshot on the size of the public sector, which showed Cera had 18 full-time equivalent (FTE) communications staff as of December.

Formed in 2011, Cera has 344 FTE staff, meaning 5.2 per cent of its staff is in the comms team.

Labour Party candidate for the Ilam electorate, James Macbeth Dann, said he did not understand how the proportion of communications staff was so high.

"It seems like an abnormally high number of comms staff for a body that seems to be abnormally bad at communicating," Dann said.

He called on Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee - who is also Ilam's electoral incumbent - to question what good the "excessive number" of comms staff were doing.

"After three-and-a-half years, the people of Christchurch don't want more talk, they want action," Dann said.

The State Services Commission report showed Cera had 100 job vacancies, so the proportion of communication staff was even higher when those were taken into account, he said.

In September 2012, information released to The Press under the Official Information Act showed Cera's communication team had doubled since it was established and the total wage bill had risen from $972,789 for the 2011-12 financial year to $1.49 million for 2012-13.

At the time, Cera chief executive Roger Sutton said the team was split into three divisions - the media team, production team and public affairs.

The report showed the communications team at the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment had swelled to 56, or 1.5 per cent of its total staff.

The Department of Internal Affairs had a comms team that equated to 2 per cent of its total staff while the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade was sitting at 1.2 per cent.

The report said there were 285.3 FTE communications and public relations advisers in the public sector as at December 31, 2013.

A spokesman for Brownlee said the issue was an operational matter and needed to be directed to Cera. Sutton declined to comment.

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