PM praises search teams

Last updated 14:18 15/09/2010

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Prime Minister John Key has today praised the efforts of urban search and rescue team members involved in the aftermath of the Christchurch earthquake.

He told a group of 60 USAR members he was proud of their efforts and said they had done "magnificent work.''

Key, who was presented with his own USAR jacket when he visited its Woolston base, met supervisors and crew members who risked their lives to clear and secure damaged and at-risk buildings and houses in the days after the September 4 earthquake.

Earlier today, he met with the 120 residents of the Elmswood Retirement Home in Bryndwr where he was warmly greeted.

He personally spoke to more than 30 residents and staff, asking them how they fared during the earthquake.
Key even tried his hand at indoor bowls there.

His first attempt missed the jack but his second bowl gently nestled the white jack, to the delight of residents.

Key is due to visit the University of Canterbury this afternoon where he will meet many of the students who volunteered to help with the cleanup.

RESIDENTS FIGHT EVICTION

Council housing residents are furious at being evacuated from their New Brighton homes in Christchurch with just an hour's notice.

The 28 tenants of Shoreham Courts social housing complex were evacuated from their quake-damaged homes yesterday afternoon.

The tenants claim the first they heard about the evacuation was when council staff arrived on site. The tenants claim council staff gave them one hour notice and said they should stay with friends and family or at a shelter.

Four tenants refused to leave and were told the police would be called to evict them. The four tenants stayed overnight, but the police did not arrive.

The homes were damaged in the quake, with gaps emerging between the floor and the walls, but the complex was given a green sticker by inspectors at the weekend.

Christchurch city councillor Chrissie Williams said the treatment of the tenants was "inhumane''.

STATE OF EMERGENCY EXTENDED

A state of emergency for the quake-damaged Canterbury region has been extended until midday tomorrow.

Civil Defence Minister John Carter said plans to lift the states of emergency in Christchurch, Waimakariri and Selwyn today have changed.

Mayors in the affected areas have decided to retain the declaration to ensure a smooth and safe transition from states of emergency to a state of urgency across the districts, Carter said.

"Safety is still the top priority and Civil Defence officials and the three mayors believe it is important to err on the side of caution by extending the states of emergency across the three districts until 12 noon tomorrow.

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"From tomorrow 12 noon, mayors and Civil Defence officials who have had a lead role in managing the earthquake response in the three districts through the past 10 days will step back from that immediate response role. In the recovery phase they will assist Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee and the Earthquake Recovery Commission.

"The mayors and Civil Defence personnel have done an extraordinary job during the past 10 days, often in very difficult circumstances and I have nothing but praise for their work."

REBUILDING BOOSTED BY EXTRA POWERS

Emergency legislation rushed through Parliament has given the Government extraordinary powers to rebuild Christchurch.

The legislation allows the Government to override several laws without the threat of legal challenge after it ruled out the right of any court to review, quash or call into question decisions under the Canterbury Earthquake Response and Recovery Act.

Faced with a massive damage bill and an uncertain future for many homeowners and business owners, the Government says it needs the powers to get the city back on its feet as soon as possible.

Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee confirmed that included exempting the seven-person Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Commission from scrutiny under the Official Information Act as it makes decisions on the rebuilding of Christchurch. It also exempts commissioners from any liability.

The commission will play a critical role in deciding how resources should be prioritised and funding allocated for the reconstruction effort.

The Greens have raised concerns about the lack of scrutiny of the legislation, which expires in April 2012. Labour has said it is confident that there are sufficient checks and balances in place.

The Government initially drafted much of the legislation on the last Government's emergency pandemic legislation, which was drawn up in the wake of the bird flu scare.

Mr Brownlee said last night that a decision had been made not to subject the commission to the OIA because it would be confronted with sensitive decisions, and needed to be able to consider those issues in a "free and frank" environment.

However, members of the commission would be drawn from local authorities and they would remain subject to the OIA.

Labour MP Charles Chauvel was also confident that the legislation allowed for sufficient scrutiny.

As well as the relevant local authorities remaining subject to the OIA, the Government had promised in writing to supply Labour earthquake recovery spokesman Clayton Cosgrove with advance details of Orders in Council.

The Government had also agreed to scrutiny of Orders in Council by Parliament's regulations review committee, any member of which could force a debate in Parliament if they were not happy with any of the emergency provisions.

"It would seem to me it's unlikely that this will be a body that's able to act in secret."

But Green Party co-leader Russel Norman said the bill conferred extraordinary powers on the Government.

"We have seldom seen such a piece of legislation that has such extensive powers."

- Stuff, The Press

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