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Thursday, 31 March 2011

How will CERA operate?

It is too early to find hard detail on CERA, and it is likely that much will be kept for the incoming CEO to determine. However the CERA website has a page (here) setting out basic information about the "what" and the "how" of its operations. The information is useful for anticipating what we can expect. This post covers the "what" part. The "how" part is not informative, as it is pitched at too high a level to contain detail of any sort.

Reproduced below is the part of the page relating to what CERA will be doing. I have numbered the paragraphs so they are easier to refer to. Some of the information suggests that local input will occur, while another implies a demotion of the interests of the residents of greater Christchurch.

  1. CERA’s role will be to coordinate the recovery efforts of the Christchurch City Council, Selwyn District Council, Waimakariri District Council, Environment Canterbury, central government departments and Crown entities, infrastructure providers, business, construction firms, and the local community.
  2. CERA will operate as a greater Christchurch organisation, because of the need to achieve local engagement in the recovery effort. It will be the lead organisation with overall control and leadership of the ongoing recovery effort.
  3. CERA will be located in Christchurch and will be staffed predominantly by people from greater Christchurch organisations. There will also be a need for CERA to manage policy and legislative processes with secondments from Wellington-based central government and other agencies as appropriate.
  4. CERA will make the fullest possible use of shared services arrangements with other departments or government agencies in greater Christchurch. This might include office space, information technology, human resources, corporate planning, financial, and other support services.
  5. International experience may also be helpful through the establishment phase, in particular in determining the skills and capabilities required for CERA. Officials will investigate options to access such expertise for consideration by the Chief Executive of CERA.
  6. The cost of the new department needs to be minimised to focus as much of the Government’s investment as possible onto the recovery effort.
Para 1. provides an interesting insight into priorities. Note that the local community comes last. Curiously this is not the ordering found in the original Cabinet papers, for example in Cabinet Minute CAB MIN (11) 13/9 Canterbury Earthquake Recovery: Proposed Governance Arrangements (Paper 1) where Cabinet noted at para. 3.4:
the significant co-ordination needed between local and central government, residents of greater Christchurch, Ngai Tahu, NGOs, business interests and the private sector.
Is the expectation of the residents of greater Christchurch that they will be involved being dampened, with the priority noted at Cabinet level already falling away?

Para 3. signals that some of the staff will be local and others from Wellington. This can be a good mix to avoid either of an insular perspective or the implementation of solutions ignorant of what would fit best in Canterbury. The expression "... staffed predominantly by people from greater Christchurch organisations" carries the implication that local and regional council staff can expect to be involved, and possibly some people from NGOs.

Para 6. Local government and NGOs may be expected to help keep CERA's costs down by seconding staff, while continuing to pay salaries. If correct then this will add to the salary bill of those agencies.

For us the principal concern seems lies in Para 1., where the status, and potentially the level of involvement, of the residents of greater Christchurch is being downgraded. This will be followed up.

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