NRT: Canterbury Enabling Act II

Written By: - Date published: 12:53 pm, March 31st, 2011 - 13 comments
Categories: democracy under attack, disaster - Tags: ,

Canterbury Enabling Act II

Back in September, in response to the first Canterbury earthquake, Parliament effectively made Gerry Brownlee a dictator, granting near-absolute power to suspend or amend laws as he saw fit to aid recovery from the earthquake. While the powers have not yet been abused, the total lack of checks and balances in the law made it a constitutional outrage. Its sole saving grace was that it would expire on 1 April 2012.

Today, the government announced its response to the second Christchurch earthquake. In the simplest terms, it is to extend Brownlee’s dictatorship for five years. There will be some new checks and balances – notably a committee headed by a retired judge to review law changes – but nowhere near the level of oversight or appeal rights that such powers need. And there will be new powers, ripe for abuse. For example, a power to compulsorily acquire land and buildings. But according to the FAQ [PDF], this won’t just be for public safety or infrastructure purposes:

Acquisition of land powers are considered to be necessary in order to facilitate the recovery of Christchurch. It may be necessary for CERA to demolish a building (that is otherwise sound), or rebuild on a site, or otherwise take control of land and use it in a new way (such as to form part of a new commercial centre, or a park, or for remediation).

So, the government can take your home, not for a public work, but because one of its mates wants the land to build a new mall or office block. This is a massive expansion of government power, ripe for abuse, and a standing invitation to corruption. But to Brownlee, those are probably features, not bugs.

The devil is very much going to be in the details, and the new law is going to need serious scrutiny by Parliament. Hopefully they’ll do a better job of it than they did last time.

[For me, the mindset behind CERA is exemplified by the FAQ document. While not actually answering most of my questions, it offered this little gem: “Why not just disestablish the City Council until the recovery process is
completed?”. They’re not disestablishing the council but, to the government, this is a legitimate question: ‘why not ‘just’ take away a city’s local democracy?’. Of course, National already has a rather shameful record on local democracy: Ecan, Supercity. – Eddie]

13 comments on “NRT: Canterbury Enabling Act II”

  1. Lanthanide 1

    “There will be some new checks and balances – notably a committee headed by a retired judge to review law changes ”

    It’s also going to be subject to the official information act.

    • It’s also going to be subject to the official information act.

      This is something I take as so much of a given that its not worth mentioning. Its a government body, therefore it will be covered.

  2. Rich 2

    The government and its apologists (will Labour and the Greens have the guts to vote against this) pretend that dictatorship is more efficient – it isn’t and won’t be.

    We’re already seeing discontent with the way Civil Defence are running things. They’re turning the Red Zone into a semi permanent closure of public space. CD announced today that some areas may never be reopened. There are building sites all over NZ – they are not surrounded by cordons with soldiers and police – usually a notice, a fence and maybe a security guard suffices to keep people out.

    I think we are seeing a “disasterocracy” pop up. The quake tzar is on a half-million salary (much more than the PM gets). As has happened with security situations overseas, once you create a class of people who rely financially on a continued crisis, they’ll have every reason to string things out as long as possible.

    What’s actually needed is an accountable, elected body that can make decisions with the benefit of public opinion.We don’t need grand plans, we need the sewerage fixed, the streets made (reasonably) safe and reconstruction enabled.

    • freedom 2.1

      .We don’t need grand plans, we need the sewerage fixed, the streets made (reasonably) safe and “reconstruction enabled.”

      the very same sentiment was expressed by many thousands of people in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and they ended up having a hundred billion USD disappear from their recovery efforts. Is New Zealand about to be subjected to the same corruption or are there enough good people working in the right offices willing to stand up and tell the truth about the plans for ChristChurch

    • Swampy 2.2

      The scale of whats happening in the Red Zone is huge and will not be solved quickly. Over 100 buildings need to be knocked down partly or fully and its likely many of the tallest ones will get demolished whether theyre on that list or not.

  3. freedom 3

    from the FAQ above

    “there should be no compensation for government actions that reult in:
    business interruption or a building that has already been destroyed and has no value”

    the recent and rampant destruction of privately owned buildings throughout the CHCH CBD suddenly makes a lot more sense, especially if you are a bloated bloodsucking bag of bilious bullshit
    -oops sorry Gerry didn’t see you there

    • Rich 3.1

      If I have a building that has been written off by an earthquake, a rational action would be to tear it down and use the insurance to fund building something else, while at the same time salvaging any vital records, etc.

      If the government prevents me from doing that, then essentially it’s imposing a cost over and above the earthquake damage, and should pay compensation.

  4. freedom 4

    they should, yes but they are not going to.
    they plainly state that in the FAQ above.

  5. xy 5

    Market price at the time of acquisition! What’s the market price of land inside the cordon right now?

  6. seemorerocks 6

    Naomi Klein wrote a book called “Disaster capitalism” in which she shows how crises and natural disasters have been used by the neo-Liberals to introduce radical change that the public would never otherwise accept.  That seems to be our history and it is happening again now

  7. Swampy 7

    I’d like to see an enquiry into why the council has allowed people to build on dodgy land for years. the liquefaction thing has been known about for decades. Why si the council allowed to ignore it.

  8. Swampy 8

    Also the port company has already had a go at getting their consent through that hasn’t yet been granted by the normal process. doing illegal reclamation work which they have now been forced to stop.

  9. Jum 9

    ‘Its sole saving grace was that it would expire on 1 April 2012.’
    What date has Rodney Hide freed up Auckland assets to be sold like Ports of Auckland, etc.?
    Does the czar Brownlee have jurisdiction over all New Zealand?

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