New legislation to replace Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Act video

Iain McGregor/Stuff.co.nz

John Key and Lianne Dalziel speak about CERA and future powers for Christchurch City Council

Mayor Lianne Dalziel has thrown her support behind the government's new plan for Canterbury's rebuild, but hopes it won't take the full five years for the council to regain full power.

Prime Minister John Key announced on Thursday a new entity named Regenerate Christchurch – overseen by Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee – would help take over the management of the central city rebuild from the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera).

Key said a new law would be introduced later this year to replace the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery (CER) Act.

Called the Greater Christchurch Regeneration Bill, the new legislation would run for another five years from April, and would formalise the transition of Cera's functions to other government agencies, local councils and Ngai Tahu.

READ ALSO: Fletcher to buy, develop Christchurch east frame

"I understand that many of you are frustrated that some things are not happening as fast as you would like. However, I'm confident the changes I've announced today will help speed things up," Key said. 

Prime Minister John Key announces the the changes to Cera at the RNZAF museum Wigram.
Iain McGregor

Prime Minister John Key announces the the changes to Cera at the RNZAF museum Wigram.

Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee would oversee the new Regenerate Christchurch entity unless Key decided otherwise. Full power would return to the Christchurch City Council after the five years, Brownlee said. 

Brownlee said he expected – and hoped – his ministerial role would eventually be disestablished, but he did not know when that would happen.

Dalziel said after the announcement she had "no reservations" about the proposals.

"This is not about the government making an announcement about the next direction for the city. It's the government saying the council and the government will work together so the city really gradually can take back that foundation of control of the recovery.

"Central government and myself and the minister will sit down and work this out together," she said.

"The [new] legislation is framed as a five-year bill, obviously that's one of the things we'll want to talk about because if we [council] can show we can step out sooner than that ... can that be a gradual shift."

Labour earthquake recovery spokeswoman Ruth Dyson said the new development agency appeared to be "just Cera with a new name". 

Canterbury's rebuild had been "too slow" and there was nothing in Thursday's announcements to speed up progress, she said.

"Gerry Brownlee himself admitted the community is crying out for a new approach to get things moving.

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"The announcement that MBIE will be picking up many of the functions of the residential rebuild is also an admission that progress has been too slow," Dyson said.

Key said the law would apply to a "much smaller area" than the CER Act and some core provisions would be updated, Key said.

"There will be an opportunity for further engagement with strategic partners, including the city council, and there will be an opportunity for public feedback."

Thursday's announcement came after a transition advisory board, chaired by former Prime Minister Dame Jenny Shipley, delivered a report to Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee on how to make the handover.

The Government would work to pass the new legislation by March, in time for it to take effect in April.

Key said Regenerate Christchurch would work along the lines of an urban development authority.

Brownlee would work closely with Christchurch mayor Lianne Dalziel, the city council and officials on how the new organisation would operate.

"We will work together to establish its objectives, functions, funding and powers – along with the appointment of a board.

"This will involve looking at a possible integration with Development Christchurch – the council's new development authority."

Key said the Minister would report back to Cabinet by the end of August with more detailed proposals. 

"Over the next few years, responsibility for regenerating the central city will transfer progressively to the city council. That's important."

Planning was underway on the Convention Centre and Metro Sports Facility with an update due to be announced "in the coming months", Key said. 

Canterbury Employers Chamber of Commerce chief executive Peter Townsend applauded the proposal.

It set out a sensible transition of power from central government to local government in an environment of collaboration the transition would be staged, he said.

Head of Ngai Tahu Property Tony Sewell said he took heart from the announcement.

The business community had been concerned about the lack of development in the central city, he said.

Brownlee said "regeneration" was Christchurch's focus for the next five years as local leadership took control of the city's rebuild.

Some of the CER Act's powers were still needed, but the progress of the city's recovery meant many were no longer relevant, he said.

Fresh legislation would allow the proposed new entity - Regenerate Christchurch - to implement the Christchurch Central Recovery Plan.

"It is evident that the community wants a significant step-change in our approach to this rebuild," Brownlee said.

"We agree the time is right, as does the advisory board led by Dame Jenny Shipley ... [its] recommendations were clear that a new direction is now required to capitalise on the groundwork that has been laid."

Regenerate Christchurch would have primary responsibility for development within the city's four avenues and delivery of the Crown's major projects and precincts within the central city.

"We can't be afraid to take stock and change direction if need be, and I believe the organisation we are developing will be the vehicle to drive that new focus for the central city redevelopment."

The proposed changes were included in a Draft Transition Recovery Plan released on Thursday by Cera acting chief executive John Ombler for public submission.

Ombler said Cera was designed to have a key role in "laying the groundwork" for the initial stages of Christchurch's post-earthquake recovery, and it was "time for change to begin".

"Almost five years on from the earthquakes, we are well aware that the time has come to move on with a new emphasis. We want to make sure the future direction of this recovery embraces the great work done so far, but has more of a focus on regeneration."

The Draft Transition Recovery Plan could be viewed online at www.cera.govt.nz/transition, and comment could be made through an online form, by emailing info@cera.govt.nz, or through Cera's Facebook page.

Feedback is due by 5pm on Thursday, July 30. 

Green Party Christchurch Earthquake Recovery spokeswoman Eugenie Sage said inventing a new entity called Regenerate Christchurch and giving it some of Cera's powers continued to "suppress the democratic decision making role" of the city council. It risked cutting across the work of the its proposed new urban development authority.

"The post-quake emergency is long gone yet the Government continues to seek to justify its meddling so it can impose super-sized and unaffordable anchor projects like the stadium and the convention centre on the city," Sage said.

Thursday's announcement also included Fletcher being named as the chosen contractor for the east frame residential development. 

The frame was intended to condense the city's commercial core and provide housing for more than 1500 residents. 

Key said Fletcher would build some 1200 apartments along Manchester St in the frame.

Cera's special powers will cease to exist from April 2016, when the five-year Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Act expires.

The authority will be assimilated into the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet next year, but it is highly likely the department will continue to have a presence in the city.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) would "lead the residential rebuild, procurement and oversight of the public sector rebuild", Key said.

Sage had expected an announcement about ECan's governance but Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith's office said there would be no such announcement this week.

READ KEY'S FULL SPEECH

 

 - Stuff

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