19 Apr 2016

CERA not forgotten as Ōtākaro CEO steps up

5:49 pm on 19 April 2016

ANALYSIS: CERA might be gone but she's not forgotten, with the shadow of the much-criticised Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority looming large at a news conference in Christchurch today.

Today is the first day of Ōtākaro, one of the new agencies that has taken over the role of CERA, charged with delivering on the city's rebuild anchor projects.

Christchurch construction.

Ōtākaro is one of two new agencies which have replaced the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA). Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Speaking in the same building that housed CERA, Ōtākaro chairperson Ross Butler told reporters that the fact a news conference was being held on its first day signalled how open and transparent the agency intended to be.

It was a clear shot at the criticism levelled at CERA, which has been accused by residents and the media over the past five years of lacking transparency and accessibility.

Mr Butler said the message was clear.

"We need to get on with business. There's an expectation from the Christchurch community, from investors and developers in the city that we need to get on with it, so we will.''

 Ōtākaro chief executive Albert Brantley

Ōtākaro CEO Albert Brantley Photo: Supplied

Sitting alongside Mr Butler was the man whose job it will be to ensure Ōtākaro does indeed get on with it.

Albert Brantley was today announced as the new chief executive of Ōtākaro, a $500,000 role that he will begin in May after eight years at the helm of Genesis Energy.

That's a significant pay drop for Mr Brantley, who was reported in 2014 to be earning $1.3 million.

For Mr Brantley, who was born in the US state of Georgia but is a Canadian resident and now resides in Kaiapoi, the role was too good an opportunity to pass up.

"A great deal of very good work has been done in terms of planning, discussion and consultation, and I have the opportunity to come in with a very disciplined approach and proceed to the implementation stage," he said.

Mr Brantley side-stepped questions about the role CERA had played in the rebuild effort of the city so far, saying he preferred to look to the future.

"I'm not really the type of individual who concerns himself with the past, I really look forward into the future," he said.

"It would be very easy to make comments about what people have or have not done, that's not what I'm here to do.

"I'm more interested in the position the company is in, the work that's been done in setting up the company and how we're going to move forward.

"I'm quite excited by the opportunity, the resources and the ability to really make a difference."

Mr Brantley also declined to answer questions about the specifics of his agenda and what his first priority for the anchor projects would be - or whether there would be a review of the city's blueprint, saying he needed time to get his feet under the table first.

A concept image for the Convention Centre Precinct on CCDU's website.

A concept image for the Convention Centre Precinct Photo: CCDU

"Give me a little time to get into the detail and that will be the order of priority of getting into the detail, working through what we can do and how quickly we can do it.

"It will be very much a part of how we approach things, to bring a good sense of urgency of getting things done."

A question of credibility

The Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority officially finished its five-year role in the city yesterday. It attracted criticism from residents, politicians and community leaders that parts of the central city were being held back by a lack of decision-making around some anchor projects, especially the convention centre, and that the rebuild was taking too long.

When asked about what he thought of that attitude, Mr Brantley said his experience was about delivering things on time and on schedule, on budget.

"My job is simply to make things happen, remove obstacles and to actually bring people along on the process. I wouldn't have taken this job on if I didn't think there was a structure in place to allow me to do that."

He said the immediate challenge was establishing the credibility of Ōtākaro and ensuring it delivers against any commitments that get made.

"To build the confidence of the business community that things really are going to take place on these anchor projects."

Mr Brantley begins his role on 2 May.

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