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Sunday, April 24, 2011

Cera labelled militaristic

Cera labelled militaristic

Last updated 05:00 23/04/2011
The Government's new Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) has been labelled bureaucratic, militaristic and the opposite of the community-led approach Christchurch needs.

A bill to form the agency was pushed through Parliament last week.

Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee criticised the speed of Christchurch's original recovery process under the Christchurch City Council and said that after two quakes, "stronger governance and leadership arrangements" were required.

However, at a Lincoln University conference attended by international disaster recovery experts, Cera was damned as "completely the wrong approach" and "far from best practice" by critics such as Christchurch East Labour MP Lianne Dalziel.

Speakers at the Resilient Futures conference on Monday included United States Centre for the Study of Natural Hazards and Disasters executive director Gavin Smith, San Francisco consultant Laurie Johnson, a veteran of rebuildings from Chile to China, and Massey University professor Bruce Glavovic, the Earthquake Commission (EQC) chairman in natural hazards planning.

Johnson said international experience showed that governments often had a top-down, fast-track approach to rebuilding and recovery when it should be a grassroots process, the community being actively involved in the creation of the plan.

"Planning needs time," she said.

"It takes time to comprehend the information and build trust."

Johnson said a rush to make decisions created losers because the lack of consultation meant only the voices of the organised and powerful were heard.

The experience of other disasters was that "existing inequalities grow", she said.

Glavovic said Cera looked to have a top-heavy command and control structure, with limited community involvement through a 20-person panel of appointees.

"There is a real need for local people to be empowered in the recovery process," he said.

"How is [Cera] going to capitalise on local culture and knowledge? How is it going to mobilise local capacity to rebuild? How is it going to enable local communities to make choices that will build safer and more sustainable communities?"

In a panel discussion, Dalziel said the Government had gone out on a limb in setting up Cera as a government department, when Australia and other countries had created corporate-style Crown agencies after disasters.

She said there should be a system for neighbourhood consultation.

"We need to own our own recovery; own our own future," she said. "That is the complete opposite of a government department structure."

Opening the conference, Christchurch Deputy Mayor Ngaire Button said there would be proper consultation.

She announced a public weekend planned next month at Addington's CBS Canterbury Arena, where there would be seminars and discussions.

- The Press

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