A Strategy for Recovery

June 2012

On 1 June 2012, the Recovery Strategy for Greater Christchurch came into effect. It has been heralded by CERA and Central Government as a significant milestone in the recovery and a turning point towards rebuilding and revitalisation of the region. This article takes a brief look at what the Strategy contains and whether it is likely to have a significant impact on the recovery process.

Purpose and Overview

The development of a Recovery Strategy by CERA was one of the core requirements under the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Act. Its purpose is to act as the key reference document that guides and coordinates the rebuilding, reconstruction and recovery of Greater Christchurch.

In summary, the Strategy contains the following key components:

  • Establishes general principles to guide how CERA and other agencies will work together;

  • Describes in broad terms the pace and phases of the recovery;

  • Identifies work programmes and which organisations will lead specific projects; and

  • Identifies priorities for recovery efforts.


The content of the Strategy is high level in nature and rather light on detail about how and when things may occur. While this is largely consistent with the ‘guiding’ nature of the document, it falls short of what was originally envisaged.

When the CER Act was passed, it was intended that the Strategy would contain a greater level of detail, including identification of the areas where redevelopment may or may not occur, the possible sequencing of redevelopment, and the nature of the Recovery Plans that may need to be developed.

However the Strategy notes that these issues have not been addressed due to ongoing seismic activity and the complex task of making decisions about land zoning and the location and timing of the rebuild. The Strategy also notes that it is not yet clear where Recovery Plans will be the most appropriate and effective way to provide direction.

All of this means that the Strategy provides a process for working out the answers to these questions, rather than providing the answers itself. For example, rather than stating what Recovery Plans will be prepared, the Strategy identifies work programmes that will make it easier to see where Recovery Plans are needed. The detailed changes and action steps are likely to come through these subsequent Recovery Plans and the other recovery programmes that are identified in the Strategy.

Legal effect

Under the CER Act, all RMA Plans and Policy Statements may not be interpreted or applied in a way that is inconsistent with the Strategy. If any inconsistency exists, the Strategy prevails. However this may not be as significant as it seems, as it does not apply to the entire Strategy document. Only sections 3-8 form the “statutory” Recovery Strategy, with the balance of the document providing additional information that has no legal effect.

Sections 3-8 cover the vision, goals and priorities of the Strategy with some information about the phases of recovery and recovery programmes. However they are written in such general terms that it is difficult to envisage a circumstance where another RMA document would be inconsistent with them.

The main exception to this is a comment in section 5 of the Strategy, which states that any person making a resource consent application or a request for a plan change for the subdivision of land must assess the risk of liquefaction and provide a geotechnical assessment. Although this was already becoming common practice since the earthquakes, including this requirement in the Strategy will ensure that it has immediate legal effect throughout Greater Christchurch.


The Recovery Strategy is intended to act as a roadmap providing vision and direction for the rebuild of Greater Christchurch. Although it serves an important role by articulating the overarching goals and priorities, the limited detail in the those parts of the Strategy that have legal effect may reduce its practical impact.

In defence of its high level nature, CERA has since made the distinction that it is a strategy, not a plan. Further detail of the how and when the various aspects of the recovery will be implemented is likely to come through the recovery programmes described in the Strategy, the blueprint currently being prepared by the Central City Development Unit, and any additional Recovery Plans that may be developed.


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


Posted on Thursday 21st June, 2012 at 09:35 am