5 May 2017

Quake conference cancelled two months after being announced

5:33 pm on 5 May 2017

A government conference, touted as ensuring valuable lessons were learnt from the Canterbury earthquakes, was cancelled in November last year - just two months after being announced.

Demolition site Feb 2016

Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

The Canterbury Earthquake Learn, Prepare, Act Symposium was announced on 9 September last year by the Minister Supporting Greater Christchurch Regeneration, Gerry Brownlee.

At that time, he said analysing and sharing the experience Christchurch and the country had gained was best done while the people and knowledge were readily at hand.

Media conference in the bunker at Parliament. Gerry Brownlee speaks to media.

Gerry Brownlee Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

Two months later, on 9 November, Mr Brownlee signed off a Cabinet paper cancelling the conference.

On 23 November, Mr Brownlee issued a media release saying the conference had been delayed, saying many positive aspects of the recovery were ongoing.

Today Mr Brownlee was not available for comment on the reason for cancelling the conference.

At the time the conference was cancelled it had 51 confirmed speakers and about 300 people were expected to attend.

Speakers were to include former Prime Minister John Key, the head of the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery, and the Secretary General of the International Federation of Red Cross.

Documents released to RNZ show that $196,639 had been spent on preparing for the symposium, including $150,000 on personnel costs.

The $21,000 that had been spent on 30 pre-paid hotel rooms was refunded.

Labour's Canterbury spokesperson, Megan Woods, said the government's media release said the conference had been delayed, but it had in fact been cancelled.

She said the government should have been more upfront about that.

Ms Woods said the government was ducking for cover because the conference would have looked at what was and was not done well during the rebuild in Canterbury.

She said the government wanted to avoid critical questions, and that was a squandered opportunity.

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