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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Half-million dollar pay deal to fix Christchurch

Half-million dollar pay deal to fix Christchurch

Last updated 05:00 31/03/2011
A half million-dollar salary is being offered to candidates for the permanent head of the new Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Agency.

The $495,000 to $555,000 salary band has been revealed as more details emerge about the broad powers Cabinet has granted Cera.

Cabinet papers from Monday's meeting to confirm Cera show its chief executive will have the power to direct or deny any action by a local government body if it is not helping the recovery effort.

Cera will also have the right to suspend, amend, cancel or delay local plans and policies, and approve significant local authority contracts.

Cera and its minister, Gerry Brownlee, will also be able to take over any local body believed to be getting recovery work wrong. Control would return to the local body when the minister and Cera felt it was appropriate.

Under the structure announced on Tuesday, Earthquake Recovery Minister Brownlee said local bodies would be able to draw up recovery plans. But Cabinet papers show those plans will have to be approved by Cera. Plans finished before Cera's recovery strategy is published in October will be reviewed to fit with the strategy.

Prime Minister John Key said yesterday the Government had been criticised that the previous earthquake recovery effort had not been powerful enough.

"Maybe some constitutional lawyers are concerned about the great deal of power, but the situation in Christchurch is we have a very big task in front of us and we need to action tasks quickly. The people of Christchurch don't want to see us tied up in red tape," Key said.

Disaster response work around the world had been most successful where the community was "fully integrated", he said.

Deputy State Services Commissioner John Ombler is interim Cera chief executive. Cabinet has set aside a maximum $150,000 to cover his salary and costs, and that of the permanent chief executive until the end of June.

Work is under way to find the permanent chief executive, and the State Services Commission said yesterday the size of the job meant a salary band of between $495,000 and $555,000 had been recommended. So far, $500,000 has been set aside to run the authority itself, although this is expected to grow.

"We're not going to scrimp and save on that," Key said.

Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker welcomed the new authority on Tuesday.

Waimakariri Mayor David Ayers said he was pleased with the structure because it meant working with only one Government department, rather than a whole range.

"It's an extraordinary situation and it needs an extraordinary focus and one government department provides that focus," Ayers said.

Selwyn District Council Mayor Kelvin Coe said the checks and balances announced alongside the new authority were appropriate. "We will probably have to have a look at them in a few months or years time, but there has been no abuse of the [powers] up until now."

Canterbury Chamber of Commerce chief executive Peter Townsend said the city needed to move forward quickly.

"The public have an expectation of certainty and hope, and I think the announcement has given them both," Townsend said.

- The Press

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