Report says where Cera went wrong
A new Government report says authorities made mistakes and missed opportunities that led to inefficiencies and bad public perception of the post-earthquake Canterbury recovery.
The Whole of Government Report: Lessons from the Canterbury earthquake sequence was released yesterday, outlining a timeline of Government actions taken during and following the 2010 and 2011 quakes.
The report says the Government knew before the September 2010 earthquake that existing legislation would not be adequate to deal with recovering from a largescale disaster. Within days, it appointed Gerry Brownlee as Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister and set up the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Commission to lead the recovery.
‘‘There were concerns that the organisation of the recovery was struggling to make progress, and that local Canterbury civil defence emergency management structures remained as dysfunctional as they had been prior to the September 4, 2010, earthquake.
‘‘The creation of the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Commission led to confusion about who was responsible for leading the recovery, and the commission itself was seen as ineffective.
‘‘During this period, the Christchurch City Council was not seen as taking an effective leadership role in the recovery, and it had not produced a recovery plan by the time of the February 22, 2011, earthquake.’’
After the February quake, the Government created the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera). It had considered alternatives, including a Crown agent structurally similar to ACC, a business unit in an existing department, or replacing locally elected authorities with government-appointed commissioners.
The report said Cera suffered from a bad image.
‘‘As the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority’s role evolved over time, uncertainty and confusion amongst the recovery community grew.
‘‘As it took on more delivery roles and released overarching strategic plans . . . recovery partners and the public began to see the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority as ‘owning’ the recovery and being responsible for solving all problems. The kinds of tensions that arose could have been expected, and mechanisms put in place to manage them.’’
The report said some of these tensions arose because the Government took responsibilities from local authorities that did not have enough powers to effectively create the Christchurch Central Recovery Plan.
The city council used the widely commended ‘‘Share an Idea’’ public consultation campaign to create a draft central-city plan, but the Government believed it was not specific enough on details and established a new unit within Cera to finalise and implement the plan.
The report said council ‘‘did not have the resources and the statutory powers necessary to lead the recovery of the central city’’. ‘‘This was perceived by some as central government ‘taking over’ a local government-led initiative and led to feelings of disillusionment.
‘‘[Cera] acknowledged that there was a communications vacuum after the release of the Christchurch central recovery plan, which likely contributed to this public perception.’’
Greater Christchurch Regeneration Minister Nicky Wagner said the report helped the Government learn, so response to future disasters would be faster and more effective. ‘‘We didn’t always get it right, but we made the best decisions possible with the information we had at the time,’’ she said.