A special fast-track procedure will be followed to have the legislation setting up the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA) passed by Thursday.
This Brief Counsel explains the procedure and provides a brief outline of the Bill's contents. The Bill is available here.
The Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Bill sets up CERA as a new government department to be based in Christchurch and dedicated to the task of ensuring that the city is rebuilt and restored to full working order as expeditiously as possible.
The Bill provides CERA with the power to relax or suspend normal regulatory procedures for purposes related to earthquake recovery. It was introduced to the House today under urgency and will go through its second and third readings on Thursday.
The Bill will go through a truncated select committee process tonight in Wellington and tomorrow morning at the Addington Raceway in Christchurch during which oral submissions will be heard from a list of invitees drawn up by CERA Minister, Gerry Brownlee’s office.
The powers the Bill gives the Minister (and CERA by delegation) are wide and include the power to:
- obtain information from any source needed to prepare the recovery plan (e.g. engineering reports and demographic, property and insurance data)
- enter onto land, remove fixtures and fittings, perform work, build or maintain structures and register an interest in those structures
- close roads and divert traffic
- order the removal and demolition of commercial (and possibly residential) buildings both in the CBD and in the suburbs
- order land to be temporarily vacated
- acquire land through compulsory acquisition (with compensation)
- approve certain council and organisation contracts over a specified threshold, and
- suspend, amend, revoke or delay any council plans and policies (see below).
This includes Resource Management Act documents, plans and strategies under the Land Transport Management Act, Reserves Act, Conservation Act and Wildlife Act and bylaws under any Act. It does not include funding impact statements in annual and long-term plans under the Local Government Act.
The Bill provides that the Crown will not be liable to compensation for demolishing dangerous buildings.
Where a non-dangerous building must be demolished in order to remove a dangerous building, the Minister will have the discretion to compensate the owner or tenant where the loss is insured provided the interest under the contract of insurance is assigned to the Crown and provided that all reasonable steps have been taken to recover payment from the insurer.
Orders in Council
The Bill also introduces a new process for the passing of Orders in Council.
The Minister will appoint a four person Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Review Panel which will be responsible for reviewing and reporting back to the Minister within three working days on the appropriateness of any proposed Order. The recommendations of the Panel must be published.
An Order is made on the recommendation of the Minister. The Minister must take into account the purposes of the Act and the recommendations of the Panel. The Minister’s recommendation cannot be challenged or reviewed.
A mandatory Recovery Plan is to be produced for the CBD within nine months of the Bill’s enactment. Christchurch City Council will lead the development of this plan, including public consultations.
Local involvement in decision-making
The Minister and CERA are required by the Bill to take into account local views by working alongside the local authorities, Ngai Tahu, business and community interests. There will also be a “community forum” made up of representative community leaders and a cross-party forum of Canterbury MPs.