CERA stalls communications on OIA requests

The Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority may have a dozen communications staff but their time appears fully allocated.

The authority has delayed an Official Information Act request from NBR because “...there are necessary consultations required before a decision can be made on your request”.

CERA spent about $3.6 million on communications over the past financial year, of which about $1 million was for wages.

The 11-strong team of mainly former journalists appear to carry out their tasks in a professional manner.

Under the provisions of the Official Information Act, on August 13 NBR requested copies of briefing papers, Cabinet minutes, reports and correspondence between CERA, Central City Development Unit, Treasury and the Earthquake Recovery Ministry or any other relevant parties including landowners concerning: 

  • Anticipated costs of securing central Christchurch land for the purpose of the CCDU rebuilding blueprint.
  • Anticipated or indicative costs of selling such land to private developers.
  • Anticipated or indicative leasing costs per square metre of completed property developments.
  • Anticipated time of completing the land purchases.
  • Anticipated costs of each major civic project – convention, centre, rugby stadium, metro sport, in particular.
  • Anticipated time of completing the civic projects.
  • The division of where property acquisition costs will fall: on the government versus the city council.

Last Friday, CERA manager of ministerial and chief executive support Jacinda Lean wrote to say she had extended the time by another 20 working days to process the request.

The time delay may dovetail with decisions that CERA is due to announce on matters such as how many existing heritage and new buildings will be demolished to make way for the centrally planned rebuild.

The lavish function at which Prime Minister John Key annunced CERA's city rebuilding blueprint on live television at 6pm a couple of months ago has been revealed to have cost $550,000.

The earthquake recovery minister's public relations staff were livid that NBR ONLINE and another media outlet broke the embargo on the announcement by about 45 minutes.

CERA's senior media advisor, Mel Weddell, told NBR that the costs for the drinks, catering and other hosting services for the function accounted for only $25,920.


"The remainder comprises the interactive display unit, liquid galaxy, signage, print material, promotional and information videos, 3D modelling and animation, virtual data room and the website which are all collateral that will continue to be used in the future to promote CCDU’s core business."

M Weddell also pointed that only threee of the 11 communications staff at CERA are former journalists.

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6 Comments & Questions

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I'm delighted Mr Hutching and NBR are onto this case and it bodes well for future articles. I predict though that the request will have more likely put fear in CERA's heart and have more than a few of them deservedly quaking no pun intended.

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20 days required to work out which of the OIA exemptions could be applied to your requests.

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Probably be decided that the information cannot be disclosed because of commercial reasons. How transparency regarding taxpayer money can be declined on these grounds will of course be referred on to another department and then be allocated to the same 20 day period and then hopefully the OIA request will go away when you give up in frustration.

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I could do with $550k

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Good reporting Time to put the blow torch down Gerrys Y fronts over the disgraceful waste. 11 spin doctors on $100K each FFS.

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Just what is going on here?
Elected officials should be responsive to valid media requests and not let their childish behaviour in the house flow over to their other dealings.

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