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Submission to Greater Christchurch Earthquake Recovery: Transition to Regeneration Draft Transition Recovery Plan

Thank you for the opportunity to contribute to the Draft Transition Recovery Plan on behalf of the New Zealand Labour Party.  It is important that the citizens of Canterbury have a voice in the governance of the next step of the recovery.  Labour trusts that the submissions received are processed in a formal consultation process rather than being “received as feedback”.  Both processes (which are entirely different) were referred to in the Draft Plan, which is confusing.

The key points that we want to address in this submission are as follows:

  • The process
  • Integration of leadership in region’s recovery
  • Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority legislation/mandate
  • CERA special powers
  • Transport
  • Health
  • Transparency and collaboration

The process:

The proposals for our post CERA structures are the start of the next stage of our region’s recovery and regeneration.  It is important to get this next stage right and address some of the frustrations that have occurred over the last four and a half years.  Residents want to be part of the solution rather than just hearing decisions.  These are decisions that have a direct impact on our lives – we should all have a chance to be part of the process.  So ensuring the recovery plan consultation is a genuine consultation process would be an excellent first step: with transparency around the submissions, the consideration and the outcome.  The process should also clearly signal that this is a return to local decision making.

Integration of leadership in Region’s recovery:

The Draft Plan has little mention of the need to avoid the perceived and real overlaps and gaps in the current structures and risks exacerbating that with the establishment of the new agency “Regenerate Christchurch,”  despite the Advisory Board specifically noting it as something to be avoided.  The various entities which are responsible for leading our recovery need to be working in a collaborative, open and integrated manner.  They need to be leading communities that are also involved in the process.  If our residents are involved and engaged with the process, they will share responsibility in the region’s recovery and regeneration.  The artificial divide between the “CBD” and the suburbs in Christchurch must be removed.  Our new governance arrangements should also recognise that although Christchurch is the City and often the focus point, that there is an inter-relationship between the City, Waimakariri and Selwyn, and that the role of the Regional Council is as inter-related.  Key strategic partners such as Ngāi Tahu, Canterbury District Health Board and our communities must be at the table.

Labour supports the proposal to have a commercial board in charge of the new agency “Regenerate Christchurch” to ensure that commercial rigour is applied to both processes and decisions.  That is a welcome and necessary move.  But “Regenerate Christchurch” must not be a duplication of “Development Christchurch” of Christchurch City Council and nor should it focus solely on the CBD.  The entire region needs to be regenerated – not just the CBD – and that regeneration should be part of a whole plan, not the plan itself.

It is our view that the proposed functions of “Regenerate Christchurch” could usefully be amalgamated into the work of the new Christchurch City Council Development Agency (Development Christchurch) as a collaborative approach to this necessary work.  This would promote an integration of the City’s work in the suburbs with the CERA led work in the CBD, would eliminate the confusion between the roles and responsibilities of CERA and CCC and also provide an opportunity to show collaboration on this work to the residents, which would be welcomed.   It would reduce the need to establish a new organisation and potentially amalgamate it with the Development Agency, as is hinted at in the Draft Plan.  Any establishment of an organisation and then restructuring/amalgamating of this kind would just slow momentum – the last thing we need.

A co-operative single agency would provide an opportunity for the step-change sought in the Advisory Board’s advice and would send a much-needed message that we are in this together.

CERA Legislation and mandate:

The current CER legislation expires in April next year.  The fundamental question needs to be asked:  do we need further legislation to mandate an organisation representing Central Government in our City/region?  There has been some commentary that if there was not another agency to “replace” CERA or CCDU, that the government would appear to be walking away from Canterbury.  I reject that commentary.  The government needs to and will remain part of our recovery, regeneration and future, but whether that needs a separate agency and separate legislation and special powers are not so clear to us.  Any such legislation needs to be very narrowly focussed, specific to the actual needs for regeneration and confirm a move back to local decision making.

CERA Special Powers:

Some powers and provisions that may need to be extended beyond April 2016 are proposed to be included in new legislation.  This will be subject to further debate and submission in due course through the Parliamentary process, but it is important to stress that the reason for maintaining any such power is actually the reason that such power is exercised.  This has not always been the case to date, particularly in the use of Section 38 powers of demolition, where the risk of danger of some buildings remaining standing, which was the driver for the power to be exercised, has not been present.  Rather, the reason for use of Section 38 power has been for convenience, time and to avoid public scrutiny of the demolition decision.   This practice must not continue.

In regard to the ability for recovery plans to be generated, once again the reason for maintaining such power must be the reason for such power to be exercised.  A “checks-and-balance” on the exercise of this power could be that the plan is generated at the instigation of the relevant local entity or authority, rather than determined by the Minister.  This inclusion  would also signal recognition of the devolution of responsibility back to the relevant local organisation.

 Transport:

Any future governance of Canterbury needs to include transport planning arrangements and functions.  At present the functions of transport planning are split across various central government agencies and entities (NZTA and KiwiRail) and Local Government Authorities (Ecan, CCC, WDC, SDC).  Ecan is responsible for regional transport planning and the provision of public transport while Christchurch City Council and the neighbouring district authorities are responsible for managing and maintain the roading and related network assets.  This situation has resulted in fragmented and overlapping transport functions in the region.  Cabinet identified this issue in the development of the discussion document on Regional Governance in Canterbury but elected to not address the issue through this process.

The Advisory Board on Transition has identified that the speed, quality and momentum of future development in the central city are vital to the economic, social and cultural prosperity of Christchurch city, greater Christchurch and Canterbury.  To date, CERA has been responsible for the Christchurch Central Recovery Plan’s programme of recovery work in the central city that includes developing its chapter, An Accessible City, which has set the transport framework for the central city.  Delivery of the major projects includes some construction and funding responsibilities shared between the Crown and Christchurch City Council.  The Crown is contributing to the funding and delivery of the first phase of implementation projects for An Accessible City.  No further funding from central government is proposed for phases two and three, other than through normal funding processes of the New Zealand Transport Agency.

Labour believes that a central and critical part of the recovery that is currently missing is fully-integrated transport planning through a dedicated agency.  A more integrated approach to transport will allow for planning for all modes of transport.  Such an approach would address the serious gap that exists between transport planning in the central city and in the wider city and neighbouring centres of significant population growth (for example Rolleston and Rangiora).  Currently, new subdivisions are being planned on the fringes of Christchurch city and beyond and there is insufficient transport planning to support the shift and relocation of centres of population.  A fully-integrated approach to transport would not only be efficient from a planning and investment perspective but also from a transport user perspective.

 Health:

There is a need for a shared understanding and commitment to addressing the specific health issues that Canterbury faces.  It is of considerable concern to us that the Ministry of Health appears unaware of either the increased demands for health services and support or of the exemplar response from the Canterbury District Health Board.  The post quake stress is too often underestimated by policy makers or not seen as relevant within their organisation, but the impacts are becoming increasingly evident in our schools and wider communities.  These impacts effect everyone and have a negative effect on our overall recovery.  Therefore, a comprehensive and consistent response must be adopted across all organisations.  Despite the actual “boundaries” of the Canterbury District Health Board being different to that of our local authorities, this boundary mismatch is a minor issue which should not be used as an excuse for lack of integration in the various plans and strategies that are being developed by different agencies.  All agencies need to understand the post quake health environment and align their own activities to best respond to the needs within that environment. This requires the Canterbury District Health Board to be recognised as a key player in the success of the recovery and regeneration.  A comprehensive health strategy should be developed as a collaborative exercise which is then applied to all policy development by local authorities and government departments and agencies in the region.  This health strategy should then be used to build a “health in all policies” approach across the region.

 

Transparency and collaboration:

Many people have a sense of disconnection and disempowerment from things that have happened since the first of our series of quakes in September 2010.  This feeling stems from the actual quakes themselves, through to arguments with EQC and insurance companies, to decisions being imposed on them to the constant disruption to their lives.  This is an appropriate time to recognise and address that sense.

This is reinforced by the commentary from the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor, Sir Peter Gluckman in his report:  The psychosocial consequences of the Canterbury earthquakes of May 2011 when he said:

“A feeling of self-efficacy and community efficacy assists the population in reactivating their coping mechanisms.  Local governance, empowerment and ownership have been shown to facilitate recovery.

The inevitable tensions and conflicts in achieving this are obvious (long-term versus short-term, public versus private, local versus national interests) and cannot be avoided – rather they have to be openly handled with sensitivity.

It follows that, from the psychosocial perspective, those involved in directing the recovery should create governance structures that understand and actively include community participation and enhance individual and community resilience.  Such approaches will be most likely to be effective in re-establishing coping and functioning communities.”

It is time for a clear signal to go to the residents of Canterbury that we are all in this next stage of regeneration together, that our residents and communities will be at the heart of the next stage and their role in our future is valued and valuable.