Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Act

May 2011


The 18 April 2011 saw the royal assent of the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Act 2011 (the Act).  The Act sets out measures to enable the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister and the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA) to oversee the earthquake recovery effort in Canterbury.  The Act repeals the Canterbury Earthquake Response and Recovery Act 2010. 

How does the Act affect you?

Recovery Strategy

CERA will develop a Long-Term Recovery Strategy in consultation with Christchurch City Council, Environment Canterbury, Selwyn District Council, Waimakariri District Council, Ngai Tahu, and other necessary parties.  The purpose of this Recovery Strategy will be to address high level questions, including where and when rebuilding may or may not occur, existing and future infrastructure issues, and the nature of Recovery Plans to be developed.

Development of the draft Recovery Strategy will include an opportunity for the public to make written submissions and one or more public hearings where members of the public may appear and be heard.  The draft Recovery Strategy must be developed within nine months of the Act coming into force.  Once the Recovery Strategy is operative, Council plans may not be read or applied in a way that is inconsistent with it.

Recovery Plans

A series of Recovery Plans will sit beneath the Recovery Strategy.  These plans will clearly identify what needs to be done and how it will happen.  They can cover social, economic, cultural and environmental matters and any particular infrastructure, work, or activity, whether site-specific or in relation to greater Christchurch.

A dedicated CBD Recovery Plan will be developed by Christchurch City Council, a draft of which must be developed within nine months of the Act's commencement.  The draft CBD Recovery Plan will be notified and must seek written comments from the public, and at least one public hearing will be held where public can have their say.

The Act allows the Minister to direct one or more responsible entities to develop a Recovery Plan for all or part of greater Christchurch.  The development process will provide opportunity for public input by inviting the public to make written submissions on the relevant draft Recovery Plan.  The Act does not specifically detail how Recovery Plans will be developed, this decision is left to the Minister.  Community consultation is expected to be important in the development of Recovery Plans and the Recovery Strategy.  However, the extent of any consultation will be balanced against the objective of speedy and focused recovery.

All council plans will be subject to the Recovery Strategy and Recovery Plans.  This means that decisions made by councils must be consistent with the Recovery Strategy and any relevant Recovery Plans.

Statutory powers

The Act provides either the Minister or CERA with a number of powers, including the ability to:

  • Require or obtain information from any source;

  • Enter land, remove fixtures and fittings, perform work on land and construct structures on or under land;

  • Carry out and commission building, demolition, and removal work;

  • Require adjoining owners to act for the benefit of other adjoining owners;

  • Acquire, sell, and otherwise deal with land and property;

  • Suspend, amend, or revoke the whole or any part of a number of plans including, an RMA document or a council plan or policy; and

  • Suspend or cancel any resource consent, existing use right, or certificate of compliance.

Appeals rights

There is generally no ability to appeal a decision of the Minister or CERA, except for appeals to the High Court and higher courts in certain circumstances, including appeals against a resource consent or notice of requirement decision specified in a Recovery Plan as subject to appeal rights, and appeals against a determination of compensation.

There are no rights, among others, to appeal the decision of the Minister to:

  • Approve the Recovery Strategy or a Recovery Plan unlike the normal RMA rights of appeal when plans are approved; 

  • Suspend, amend or revoke a council plan or policy; and 

  • Suspend or cancel a resource consent, existing use rights provided by the RMA, or certificate of compliance.

How can you have your say?

The Minister and CERA will work together with Christchurch City Council, ECan and other interested stakeholders so that local views are taken into account throughout the planning process.  You can provide input through:

  • The community forum comprised of representative community leaders;

  • The cross-party forum of Canterbury Members of Parliament  that will advise the Minister and CERA; and

  • Any other public consultation processes that may be developed.

The level of community input into the development of the Recovery Strategy and Recovery Plans is not yet clear.  It is expected that as new planning mechanisms are developed, processes for effective community consultation will be developed.

Key message

The purpose of the Act is to facilitate and direct greater Christchurch and its communities to respond to, and recover from the impacts of the Christchurch earthquakes in a focused and timely fashion.  The Act does not itself make changes of immediate effect but provides the Minister and CERA with wide powers to do so, however these powers must only be exercised in a way that is consistent with and supports the purpose of the Act. 

The Act presents many challenges as well as opportunities.  To make the most of these opportunities you will need to be proactive.

The Act provides for public participation in relation to the Recovery Strategy and Recovery Plans.  The usual public participatory process will change, particularly by reducing the normal RMA time frames in order to achieve a speedy recovery and removing appeal rights.

The yet to be developed Recovery Strategy and Recovery Plans and the fact that these must be 'read into' council plans could impact on your interests.  If interests are likely to be affected we recommend you make contact with those on the community forum and/or your local MP to discuss your views.  There will then be opportunity later in time to provide input on the Recovery Strategy and Recovery Plans through public consultation.  There are limited appeal rights against a decision of the Minister or CERA which means involvement at an early stage in the planning process is key.

It will be critical to understand how and when opportunity for engagement will arise.  We recommend establishing contacts with CCC or the relevant council so that you can remain informed about how the Strategy and any Plans are progressing and when there will be an opportunity to have your say.

More information and updates on the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority is available at:

To view a copy of the Act please go to:

Disclaimer: This is a brief summary for information purposes only and is not legal advice.

Posted on Tuesday 19th April, 2011 at 11:05 am