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Brownlee moves closer to controlling Christchurch

Last week it was the warning.

This week, Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee moves a step closer to taking control of Christchurch City Council.

His hands-on attacks on the council are deflecting attention away from slow EQC processing, residential home repairs and lack of traction of the inner city rebuild.

“In the middle of next week progress will be assessed to consider if greater resource or further intervention is required,” Mr Brownlee warns.

He and Building and Construction Minister Maurice Williamson are installing a team of technical experts from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment “to join” the council’s consenting department and work with council officers to speed the flow of consent approvals.

“The team will have the authority to make changes as required,” Mr Brownlee says.

In a prepared statement, Mr Williamson says “it’s clear council staff want to sort this issue as much as anyone, and they have been encouraged by offers to assist from other consenting bodies throughout the country”.

The move follows last week’s threat, made public by Mr Brownlee, that the council will lose its consenting accreditation.

A letter dated May 30 from International Accreditation New Zealand to Christchurch City Council gives the council until June 28 to improve consenting processes or lose accreditation as a Building Consent Authority.

Mr Brownlee described it as reaching a “crisis point”.

Council staff had not told councillors.

But mayor Bob Parker and chief executive Tony Marryatt tried to downplay the problem, claiming that new systems are in place and the council will comply with requirements.

The lack of rebuild momentum is evident in Christchurch, much of it the fault of EQC and slow processing of insurance claims.

Not does the central city rebuild under Mr Brownlee’s Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority appear to be making progress.

The city rebuild plan contains many restrictions that local developers find difficult to comply with and national and international developers are reluctant to make big investments while the central city is in its current state.

More by Chris Hutching

Comments and questions

Isn't it time to regulate the time it takes to process claims? Six months to settle every claim or a statutory board does it for you at a hearing.... perhaps with a bias towards the poor hapless punters.
Delays and obfuscation seem to be the order of the day for these insurance organisations.

Totally agree. Most US states have strong regulation, probably due to the bad record of insurers in claims settlement. The general rule seems to be 30 days for a clean claim, after which interest accrues until the claim plus interest are paid. Florida and Texas are more strict, deeming unsettled claims after 90 days accepted by insurers, with no legal right of appeal, plus more onerous levels of interest. There are over 100 claims in the Christchurch courts, many of which indicate a large difference in opinion of repair or rebuild cost and, hopefully, the courts will judge that where insurers have clearly under-estimated the cost that damages and interest are payable to the insured.

Rather than trying to influence public opinion through emotional contagion, minister Brownlee could make an immediate difference by applying the significant resources he has at his disposal and his chisel sharp wit to the duopoly causing 90% of the issues in Christchurch, EQC and the insurance companies. If a suggestion is required, perhaps he could install a commissioner into EQC to fix it and mediate speedy resolutions between EQC and insurers.

Leave the city council to the people. Democracy provides them with the power to determine the fate of councils and administrations that are poorly led, governed and managed.

Brownlee had better remember that he too is seen as part of the problem in Christchurch. Attacking Marryatt and his hand puppet side show Bob is astute in the short term due to their unpopularity, but this will only buy a little time before the general anger at the EQC and Insurance incompetents turns instead on him.

And another democratically elected local government is usurped by unaccountable central planners. All hail the Supreme Soviet.

Are you telling me Bob didn't know?

Brownlee is a buffoon.
Nothing I read gives me cause to consider otherwise.
Until such time at minimum he gives Simpson the flick and puts his fulsome weight on the throat of EQC will anything truly change.

Delta have made redundant a skilled infrastructure labour force of 40 people in Christchurch on Friday.

Where is the insight from the media into this fact?

Congratulations Gerry, obviously those 40 people skilled people cannot contribute to the rebuild of Christchurch since Gerry is doing such an awesome job.

Rebuilding CHCH is not a cargo cult.

Central govt has to invest in infrastructure and that means investing in real people and real businesses with skills and resources and bank managers.

A morbidly obese woodwork teacher is not my idea of an inspirational leader. God save CHCH because he does not have a hope.

Democracy is a messy business at the best of times. "Imperfect" doesn't come close to describing the outcomes that result from the way it behaves. The temptation for efficient, effective processes is very strong indeed, and given all that the people of Christchurch have suffered who can blame politicians for wanting to take control of the situation there to produce good outcomes. But I worry that the old adage about the corrupting nature of power is forgotten in the pursuit of the good outcomes. No doubting anyone's intention here, and no doubting the difficulties faced by the local Council, but I am not sure the imposition of centralised decision-making is in the long term best interests of everyone.

"... to produce good outcomes ..." = white elephants.

As an uninformed bystander, an outsider, but interested in the wellbeing my fellow Kiwis, of Christchurch and its successful recovery, I don't understand why EQC keeps rearing up as a culprit in all of this, followed by the private insurance companies. Can someone, anyone, please explain to us outsiders what the heck is going on. Perhaps an indepth report by NBR? Would be helpful. Please?

First problem is the consents procedure. It is a disgrace.
Second problem is ChCh attitude. They believe they are owed a full recovery by the rest of NZ without themselves contributing to the cost.

I am over ChCh, and until they get their collective finger out and raise their share of the cost, they can go take a running jump!

Geez John, you're a bit bitter. I agree with a little of what you are saying. ChCh is demanding more than it is probably entitled to, but if I was a betting man Auckland in the same position would be a lot more demanding. EQC is only responsible for the first $100k of a claim. There are still people having to walk down the road to use a portaloo, and after 2.5 years this is unacceptable. Some of the problem is the lack of staff to cope with the number of claims, and compounding this they have decided to revisit much of the previously assessed claims to save money.

Can't help but agree with you, Richard. But surely after a quake ChCh had you would know there were going to be more consent applications coming in and you would hire more staff to cope. Surely?

Dear TwoOtherguys, the problem is that until insurance claims are settled nothing else can happen. Until the earthquakes ECQ was just an investment company with hardly any staff. It has had difficulty setting up a whole new bureaucratic organisation to process claims, which can be very complicated. Private insurers have also been slow (look up Insurancewatchdog for information), also through our archives and you will learn more, yours, Chris Hutching

If National lose the next election, Mr Brownlee won't be charge of anything.

A nice dry run before they take over Auckland...

And then all of New Zealand, and then...?

After McCully took over Queens Wharf in Auckland, why should we be surprised? With this government, any opposition to their progress is simply regulated or legislated out of the way. Where are all you neo-liberals now?