A new Act to focus on recovery and regeneration is proposed to replace the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Act 2011 (CER Act), when it expires on 18 April 2016. The Bill will continue some of the Government's powers, but also keep various safeguards.

The Christchurch earthquakes have caused major ructions in the legal landscape, not only in the physical world and in people's lives. There have been two special statutes enacted, a new government department created and then absorbed into DPMC, and major judicial review and other cases.

The earthquakes have caused a re-think about the role of legislation, and broader powers for Government to intrude into the lives of communities and people than is normally tolerated.

A Parliamentary Select Committee is also now reviewing Parliament's legislative response to future national emergencies.

Draft Transition Plan and the Bill

The proposals in the Draft Transition Plan and for the Greater Christchurch Regeneration Bill are the most recent changes. The proposals arise from the report of the Advisory Board on Transition. The Board was tasked to advise on the implications of the expiry of the CER Act and the transfer of functions undertaken by the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA) to more permanent agencies and arrangements.

The Government proposes that many of CERA's functions go to councils or Ngai Tahu over time. Some will no longer be needed, such as directive powers over councils, and will expire.

Some coercive powers, however, are still likely needed. The Government proposes that these include powers for the Crown to acquire and deal with land and undertake demolitions. Continuing public safety powers are also proposed.

Safeguards on government power

Safeguards will also continue, such as requirements to consult of regeneration plans (the replacement to recovery plans), appeal rights (with some modifications), and requirements for stakeholder input.

Government action will also only be permitted where it is reasonably considered necessary, the test that currently applies and which has been important in some judicial review cases.

An additional limitation is that the Bill will focus on a much smaller area than the CERA Act. It is intended to apply only to Christchurch City and its urban satellites and some adjacent costal marine areas. In contrast the CER Act applies to the Greater Christchurch area, extending into the Selwyn and Waimakairiri Districts, and Banks Peninsula.

The Government's intention is also that leadership, governance and coordination of the recovery devolve to local institutions. In addition, a new entity, possibly called Regenerate Christchurch, may be established to drive regeneration of the central city. This entity is likely to be jointly established by the Government and Christchurch City Council.

The Greater Christchurch Regeneration Bill, if passed, is likely to apply for a period of 5 years.

As consultation proceeds, it will be interesting to see the reaction from communities, organisations and people in Christchurch as to whether they see the powers in the Bill are necessary, and whether the proposed safeguards are sufficient.

Submissions on the Draft Transition Plan are due by Thursday 30 July 2015.

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