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Cautious support for new agency

Cautious support for new agency

29 March 2011

Proceed with caution when altering the terms of local democracy: that's the message from Local Government New Zealand following the Government's announcement of the establishment of the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA) to manage the rebuilding of Christchurch.

LGNZ President Lawrence Yule says LGNZ supports the new agency as long as it works alongside Christchurch City Council. He acknowledges the scale of the catastrophe is beyond the capacity of local government alone to respond to.

"Christchurch City Council must be at the centre of decision-making. LGNZ sees the role of the new stand-alone government department will be the coordination of Crown agency efforts.

"This situation is unprecedented in New Zealand, but Christchurch doesn't have to rebuild its city from scratch. A good deal of planning work has been done - the Greater Christchurch Urban Development Strategy will be a useful starting point."

Mr Yule says LGNZ on principle is wary of efforts to impose structures, powers and decisions over communities and their directly elected community representatives.

"Such a radical change needs a clearly stated term. The devil is in the detail but LGNZ is pleased there will be an annual review of the Authority and that it will have a five-year lifespan.

"However this does raise questions about taxation without representation which goes against the fundamental premise of local democracy. And it is imperative that a local government representative be involved in the Government's proposed four-person independent review panel to assess all legislative and regulatory changes CERA makes.

"There also needs to be clarity on what territory will be covered by the new agency. Will other councils come under its power, such as Waimakariri or Selwyn District Councils? We would like to see these operational questions answered sooner rather than later."

But, he says, LGNZ supports the implementation of the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Community Forum.

"Recreating a city fit for the future will take time, and local government will work with central government to ensure the right decisions for Canterbury are made at the right time for Canterbury."


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