Earthquake bill passes first hurdle

10:11 pm on 12 April 2011

Legislation setting up the dedicated government authority to rebuild earthquake-hit Christchurch passed its first reading in Parliament on Tuesday - but the vote was not unanimous.

The Green Party and independent MPs Chris Carter and Hone Harawira opposed the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Bill, which has been introduced under urgency and is expected to become law on Thursday.

Under the bill, Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee and the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority have sweeping powers.

These include the right to demolish buildings in commercial and residential areas without the owners' permission. They can also ignore existing planning regulations and council by-laws.

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei says the legislation gives too much power to Mr Brownlee and does not allow local people to have a say in the rebuilding of Christchurch.

"We have amendments that we put up all through the committee stages of the bill and if those amendments are supported, then we will consider our position on third reading.

"But we don't think that the Government should give itself these kinds of extensive powers without public engagement - first in the bill itself, and second, in the process of the rebuild."

However, Mr Brownlee told Parliament on Tuesday there are checks and balances on the bill's wide-ranging powers.

"Overall, this bill enables the Government to move swiftly to restore the social economic well-being of the greater Christchurch area and its affected communities.

"The checks and balances ensure the necessary power for recovery are used judiciously and are open to appropriate levels of public scrutiny and provide for appeal."

A select committee has invited some interested parties to appear before it in Christchurch on Wednesday.