Labour targets earthquake recovery bodies as 'undemocratic'

Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee
Labour party leader David Cunliffe

Administration of the post-earthquake recovery effort in Canterbury has become an election issue, with Labour wanting to make appointees to the government department in control and curbing the minister's powers.

In response, Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee has fended his role and the government's performance.

Labour leader David Cunliffe says his party will restore the rights of Cantabrians to make their own decisions by winding down CERA (Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority), cancel its extraordinary powers and restore democratic elections for regional council ECan.

He says it’s time power was returned to the people. He has pledged a Labour government will immediately appoint a board of qualified locals with relevant skill and experience to govern CERA.

“Members will be tasked with overseeing the smooth transition of CERA and the return of its powers and responsibilities to appropriate and competent local organisations," he says.

“My team and I are also committed to working alongside Christchurch’s mayor and councillors to come up with a fair and sustainable solution to the city’s ballooning debt, largely a consequence of a government-imposed cost-sharing arrangement.

“For almost four years Cantabrians have had the right to determine what they want for their communities over-ridden by a law which gives extraordinary powers to the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority and the Earthquake Recovery Minister.”

Mr Brownlee says Labour has again shown it has no grasp of the issues that are important to Cantabrians.

“This policy is the latest fizzer in a long line of announcements that show Labour really has no idea what Christchurch needs,” he says.

He says Labour’s announcement comes down to a "discussion" with the Christchurch City Council and is an unnecessary new layer of governance.

“Establishing a governance board to manage the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority will not achieve anything for the people of Christchurch," he says.

“It should also not be forgotten that CERA employees are almost all residents of Christchurch, who have a clear understanding of local issues, and certainly feed this into their work.”

Jason Walls is an AUT journalism student

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