National has plans for Cera change

The Government is planning changes to the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority if it is re-elected on September 20.

Prime Minister John Key announced in Christchurch yesterday Cera would become an agency within the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet from February 1, next year.

Cera would remain the face of the Government's recovery effort in Christchurch.

''But housing Cera within the department enables its functions to be wound back gradually - rather than seeing its role come to an abrupt end.

''The department already housed the Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management, he said.

''We are keen Cera and the ministry work closely together so the lessons learnt from both the initial response and the recovery phases of the Canterbury earthquakes are adopted permanently and shared widely.''

Hosting Cera and the ministry together within the department would ensure that happened, Mr Key said.

Cera head Roger Sutton would remain chief executive but would join a team of senior state officials who would develop a plan for transition.

The plan would include an analysis of the need for powers granted under the Cera Act to endure beyond 2016 and a plan for the handover of programmes to either government agencies or local government.

The Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Act 2011 was due to expire by April 2016. There would be some functions in the law which might need to continue.

Many of the provisions were still used regularly and were required to ensure the recovery work was effective, Mr Key said.

An advisory group would be established to help the Earthquake Recovery Minister and the transition team on appropriate transfers of responsibilities and a timeline for doing so.

The minister would refer other matters to the advisory group as necessary.

The advisory group, expected to be appointed later this year, would include representatives from local councils, ECan, Ngai Tahu and other stakeholders yet to be determined, he said.

''In advancing these arrangements, we want to give reassurance to the people of Canterbury that in no way are we lessening our commitment to the rebuild and recovery.''

In a separate statement, Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee said a re-elected National government would continue to ramp up construction in the central city, led by anchor projects such as the Convention Centre Precinct, Justice and Emergency Services Precinct and the bus interchange.

Investment in those and other projects was already encouraging businesses and retailers to return to the city, he said.

Mr Key also touched on the future of ECan, which had commissioners installed by the Government after becoming a dysfunctional body.

The commissioners were set to end their term at a single point in October 2016, before local body elections were held.

If that happened too abruptly, there were risks of a lack of continuity and the region could go backwards.

Immediately after the September 20 election, Mr Key planned to release a consultation document on ECan's future.

''We are committed to seeing elections happen. However, we need to ensure the gains made by the commissioners are not lost.''

The options would propose for consultations ranging from a fully elected governing body to a mixed model of elected and appointed members, he said.


At a glance
•Cera to become part of Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet on February 1, 2015
•Cera chief executive Roger Sutton will remain
•An advisory group to be named later this year
•Options for ECan to be released after election 


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