More staff to speed up city rebuild

23:10, Oct 30 2011

More than 120 new staff members will be recruited by the Christchurch City Council to accelerate the earthquake recovery and rebuild.

The recruitment comes amid criticism on the pace of the rebuild from Finance Minister Bill English.

The 125 new positions have been created to help the organisation respond to earthquake issues, according to council sources.

Of the new jobs, 71 were in the consenting area, where the council expects to receive three times the normal level of applications for consents in the next year.

Fourteen positions are being created in the city environment group, while eight have been established for the capital programme group.

Other new roles are in strategy and planning (seven positions), community services (five), corporate services (five), human resources (five) and public affairs (four).

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Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker said the new positions would help the council streamline the earthquake recovery process.

"One of the mantras we have is that we don't want to be getting in the way of the rebuild process: we don't want the [Earthquake Recovery] Minister to turn around and say we're slowing things down when the emphasis is for us to deliver," Parker said.

He said the council planned to set up two consenting teams to handle applications, with one specialising inside the central city to deal with quake-related issues.

A "significant amount" of the cost for the new consenting jobs would be covered by consent applicants, while the council was balancing funds in other areas to ensure the positions could be funded.

"There's no doubt in recovering from the disaster of the sort we're faced with, there will be extra costs, but our goal is not to blow the rates out," Parker said.

Yesterday, Finance Minister Bill English was reported saying council needed to focus less on its "vision" and more on retaining residents and businesses.

He noted the exodus of people out of Christchurch, with the latest figures showing thousands of people had left the city, many for Australia.

"The council can curtail that by making available more lower-priced sections."

When contacted by The Press yesterday, English would not elaborate on his comments, deferring to Brownlee.

"I don't have any further comment to make on it. Gerry [Brownlee] is the guy that is doing the job, you better to talk to him."

In August, Brownlee raised similar concerns, claiming he was worried about the slow pace of approving new residential subdivisions.

Parker said the council had taken a number of measures "very quickly" to ensure that businesses and residents could remain in Christchurch.

Parker said the biggest issues for most residents were those under the control of the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera), including the fate of residential zones, the speed of demolition and the removal of the central city cordons.

He shared English's concerns about "making sure we get things going", but said the council also needed to deliver its central city plan as required by the Government.

"We have a piece of legislation which the Minister of Finance was involved in preparing, which requires us to put in place a plan for the central city zone," Parker said.

While some parts of the council were still focused on the plan, the rest of the organisation was working "at a tremendous rate" on other aspects of the city's recovery.

The Press