Cera jobs boost 'fits workload'

The Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) has defended a big spike in its staff numbers, saying the jobs reflect the state of the recovery.

A key Opposition figure and community advocates are worried the jobs will not help set up the city for a future without the Government agency.

Labour's Earthquake Commission (EQC) spokesman, Clayton Cosgrove, was initially horrified to learn Cera had hired an extra 99 staff in the last year, but said it could be acceptable if they were employed in the right areas.

Cera's organisation structure (see at www.press.co.nz) shows the heads of five departments report to chief executive Roger Sutton. These departments include Implementation/Christchurch Central Development Unit (CCDU), communications, corporate services, strategy and Governance and social and cultural recovery.

Cera is also advertising eight positions and plans more recruitment early next year.

Yesterday, its acting chief executive, Michelle Mitchell, defended staffing levels, saying the number of jobs had "evolved" over the past two-and-a-half-years to reflect the state of the recovery.

Cosgrove said Cera should be "grabbing whatever resources they need", but only if it could show what staff were doing.

"If they are recruiting spin doctors and media folks then that's not going to help, but if it's operational people at the coal-face, practically trying to speed up the recovery then . . . whatever it takes."

Mitchell said the type of staff had changed considerably since 2011.

"In that time, for example, the number of engineers has dropped as Cera's involvement in managing and assessing CBD buildings has eased. But with the Anchor Projects now under way, there is a need for experienced staff in the planning and project managing area."

Cera's staff numbers would continue to fit the workload required to help the recovery, she said.

Wider Earthquake Communities Action Network spokesman Reverend Mike Coleman said it was "unacceptable" that many Cantabrians were still living in questionable housing while the government agency hired more staff.

Canterbury Communities' Earthquake Recovery Network spokeswoman Leanne Curtis said it depended on what the staff were doing.

If they were preparing to hand over responsibilities to community groups before Cera's planned 2016 exit, then she had no problems. But if Cera was doing the work agencies should be doing, that would be questionable.

Cera employs 245 staff with an annual salary bill of more than $25 million, equating to an average salary of $102,000. Cera declined to reveal the salary bands it pays its staff.

The only Cera salary on public record is Sutton's $550,000.

The Press