Half-million-dollar salary for quake agency head

Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee
Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee
The permanent head of the new Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Agency (Cera) will get paid about half a million dollars a year. 

The State Services Commission indicated a $495,000 to $555,000 salary band, the Press newspaper reported.

The Government on Tuesday announced the formation of the stand-alone government department, which will have a lifespan of five years, with operations reviewed annually.

Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee said the agency would have wide powers to relax, suspend or extend laws and regulations for earthquake recovery.

"These are essentially reserve powers and there will be checks and balances on the use of these powers so the public can have confidence they are being used wisely and with restraint."

A four-person independent review panel, chaired by a retired High Court judge, would assess all legislative and regulatory changes proposed by the department, and a forum of Canterbury community leaders would advise the department on what issues were important to local people.

Cabinet papers obtained by the Press showed the chief executive would have powers to stop local council actions not conducive to recovery and Cera would be able to change or delay local plans and policies, and approve significant local authority contracts.

Cera and Mr Brownlee could take over any local authority they thought was not helping with recovery.

All local body recovery plans would have to be approved by Cera.

There have been concerns about the extent of powers the agency would have. Prime Minister John Key told the newspaper they were necessary.

"Maybe some constitutional lawyers are concerned about the great deal of power, but the situation in Christchurch is we have a very big task in front of us and we need to action tasks quickly. The people of Christchurch don't want to see us tied up in red tape."

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