Quake bill for Christchurch recovery passed

6:25 am on 15 April 2011

Legislation giving wide powers to the Government and a new earthquake recovery authority for Christchurch has passed in Parliament under urgency.

The Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Bill gives Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee and the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority 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.

The bill has been rushed through Parliament this week, and invited submitters at select committee hearings had only a few hours to review the legislation. No official advisers were present to clarify issues for the committee.

Thursday's proceedings were dominated by criticism over the haste with which the bill was pushed through and the lack of formal paperwork on amendments.

It took the Government until late in the afternoon to produce its 32 amendments, which are mainly technical and cross a range of subjects including compensation rules for demolished properties.

The Opposition had argued that it was impossible to properly debate the changes, before they saw them in a formal supplementary order paper.

The Labour Party's MP for Waimakariri, Clayton Cosgrove, told Parliament that with all the Government's resources, Mr Brownlee should have been able to turn up at the start of the committee stage with the legislative amendments.

Mr Brownlee said there has been some acrimony over process on the passage of the bill and more unity is needed. He said he intends to engage with the cross-party forum on the recovery strategy.

Only the Green Party and independent MPs Chris Carter and Hone Harawira voted against the bill.

The Green Party says the Government now has unprecedented power to ignore, suspend or relax laws across the statute books with with inadequate community input.

Labour shares those concerns but says it supported the legislation in good faith, and hopes it will provide Canterbury with what it needs for its recovery.