CERA becomes part of PM's office today

CERA is undergoing transition.

The Canterbury Earthquake Recovery becomes a departmental agency within the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet today.

What will mean is are unclear until a transitional plan is unveiled over the next three months by the chairwoman of a transitional advisory board, Dame Jenny Shipley.

The report will recommend the extent to which CERA’s functions should be handed over to local authorities.

For many Cantabrians CERA has become an irrelevance as they work and mix socially in different areas of the city and surrounding districts, as evident in the swelling traffic volumes of the motorways leading into the city from the north and south.

Which is not to say CERA fails to irritate citizens over plans to demolish and refashion central city public amenities such as Victoria Square, virtually undamaged by the earthquakes.

In this case CERA has backtracked on its blueprint vision and is currently calling for “engagement” (short of public consultation) on the $7 million Victoria Square plan.

Otherwise the private sector has simply got on with business and development outside the central areas tied up in CERA’s red tape.

So far CERA’s visible achievements have been the wholesale clearance of buildings in the former central business district and in the residential red suburban zones.

Huge green swathes make up a large portion of the old central city, and a cyclist can ride for half an hour toward the seaside suburb of New Brighton without sighting a house.

CERA also says it has made progress behind the scenes on its anchor projects by calling for designs and preferred contractors.

Compared with its initial timetable, the anchor projects like the convention centre are about a year behind schedule, leading many commentators to question whether CERA has the expertise to take them forward, based on its patchy performance so far.

Dame Jenny's report will try to answer these questions when the final draft comes out in May.

c.hutch@clear.net.nz