Former Kāpiti Coast District Councillor and local government reform advocate Gwynn Compton has called on central government to establish a stand alone New Zealand Reconstruction Authority with special powers and a dedicated ministerial portfolio to help provide leadership, direction, and coordination for rebuilding efforts in the wake of the recent Auckland floods and Cyclone Gabrielle.
“With recovery efforts well underway and thoughts beginning to turn to rebuilding after the devastation wrought by Cyclone Gabrielle, there’s a compelling case to be made for a specialist New Zealand Reconstruction Authority and associated ministerial portfolio to be established to ensure we build back better, in a more resilient way, all while sharing expertise and making the most of every dollar spent instead of duplicating efforts, ” says Mr Compton.
“Taking lessons learned from the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA), and other successful overseas examples such as the Queensland Reconstruction Authority (QRA) – established following several devastating flooding and cyclone events in the summer of 2010-11 – a New Zealand Reconstruction Authority with appropriate special powers and funding would be invaluable in helping lead and coordinate reconstruction efforts in response to both the current national emergency and future natural disasters.”
Mr Compton says the sheer scale and magnitude of the damage caused by Cyclone Gabrielle, covering much of the North Island and directly impacting hundreds of thousands of people, means that with a repair bill already estimated by Finance Minister Grant Robertson to be at least $13 billion, there’s a pressing need to ensure there is a coordinated approach taken across the dozens of local authorities, iwi, government departments, communities, and industries that will be involved in rebuilding projects.
“With significant rebuilding of fundamental infrastructure required across much of the North Island, along with the huge human, social, environmental, and economic costs of Cyclone Gabrielle, we need to make sure we get this done right so we build back better and in a far more resilient way. We need to be better prepared for future natural disasters as well as ensuring whatever does get built back contributes to mitigating or adapting to climate change.”
Mr Compton says a stand alone and permanent Reconstruction Authority, with special powers and funding would be invaluable in making sure we get the best results for our communities and the environment.
“This has been demonstrated by the Queensland Reconstruction Authority being made permanent in 2015 after first being established only weeks after Cyclone Yasi devastated Queensland. Likewise, we also can take the lessons from the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority – especially what did and didn’t work in a New Zealand context – to help ensure we’re delivering the best outcomes for every dollar spent.”
Emphasising the need for such an authority to be permanent rather than ad hoc, with a dedicated ministerial portfolio, Mr Compton says events in recent years show it’s a case of when, not if, you’ll need this type of authority.
“Looking back over recent years we’ve had a run of significant natural disasters, with large earthquakes in Canterbury, Seddon, and Kaikoura, and numerous major flooding and storm events. It’s a case of when, not if, you’ll need to coordinate large scale rebuilds, and we need to make sure we have the capacity to lead massive and long-term reconstruction efforts in place permanently, with a minister to provide the necessary leadership and responsibility at the Cabinet level to help get things done.”