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Friday, April 29, 2011

Cera to assume control of city

Cera to assume control of city

Last updated 05:00 28/04/2011
The national state of emergency in Christchurch will be lifted within days, with Civil Defence making way for the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera).

The authority has been extending its reach for three weeks, with 30 staff moving into a Papanui office block and interim chief executive John Ombler attending several community recovery meetings.

Civil Defence national controller John Hamilton said the state of emergency was unlikely to be extended beyond Saturday, and could end before then.

Civil Defence had spent the past few weeks bringing the new authority up to speed to ensure a smooth transition, he said.

"Our challenge is to give Cera an indication as to where we are today so they don't go into these things cold," he said.

Cera will have more powers than Civil Defence, being able to forcibly acquire land and override council decisions.

"They have got broader powers because of the nature of the stuff that's going to take place, especially around urban development," Hamilton said

Ombler said Cera would assume many of Civil Defence's responsibilities in central Christchurch, including managing the cordon and building demolition.

"I would hope that people would not notice any difference," he said. "We have been working with the city council to make sure there is clarity around the roles so nothing falls through the cracks."

Improving social wellbeing in quake-hit suburbs and returning economic activity to the central city would be the main aims, Ombler said.

In the longer term, Cera would develop a recovery plan encompassing strategies for everything from education to business activity, he said.

Mayor Bob Parker said the council would resume its roles in managing and repairing infrastructure, such as the water and sewerage systems, and processing resource and building consents.

It would also be responsible for developing an inner-city recovery plan, although, as with almost everything, Cera would have the final call.

Parker said the handover to Cera would be a milestone in the quake recovery, marking a shift to the rebuilding phase.

The council would continue to control most of the day-to-day business of running the city, including repairing the shattered infrastructure, rebuilding the central business district and managing council facilities, he said.

Cera would step in when government funding or regulatory change was needed and would have a close relationship with the council, he said.

Cera's staff come from the private sector, the city council, Environment Canterbury, the Canterbury Development Corporation and government departments. Ombler said many staff had been involved in the quake response in different roles from September and he hoped they would stay on.

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