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Christchurch has a new legal framework to support regeneration over the next five years. The Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Act 2011 ("CER Act") expired on 19 April 2016 and the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority is no more. The CER Act has been replaced by the Greater Christchurch Regeneration Act 2016 (the "Act").

Key aspects of the new Act

Regenerate Christchurch

The Act establishes a new entity called Regenerate Christchurch. Jointly controlled by CCC and the Crown, one of its objectives is to lead regeneration in the Christchurch district for the next five years. 'Regeneration' is defined broadly. It means:
  • Rebuilding; and
  • Improving the environmental, economic, social, and cultural well-being, and the resilience, of communities through urban renewal and development, and restoration and enhancement.
In achieving regeneration, Regenerate Christchurch will work collaboratively with other organisations. 

Regeneration and Recovery Plans

The Act provides for the continuation of existing Recovery Plans, such as the Christchurch Central Recovery Plan, the Land Use Recovery Plan and the Lyttelton Port Recovery Plan. The Act allows the development of new Regeneration Plans (which are similar to Recovery Plans), and the amendment or revocation of Recovery Plans or Regeneration Plans.

A move away from emergency response

The new framework transfers more decision-making powers to local authorities and provides for greater public input. Under the CER Act, the Minister for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery, now Minister supporting Greater Christchurch Regeneration (the "Minister"), determined how Recovery Plans were to be developed, including any requirement as to consultation or public hearings. The Minister approved draft Recovery Plans, having regard to the impact, effect and funding implications of the Recovery Plan.

Under the new Act, a number of parties can develop a Regeneration Plan. A 'proponent' could be Regenerate Christchurch, a 'strategic partner' or the chief executive of a relevant government department. Strategic partners include four listed local authorities and Ngāi Tahu.

The Minister still has the power of final sign-off. However, there are now more checks on that power. For example:
  • The proponent is obliged to seek views of specific parties while developing a draft Regeneration Plan.
  • In approving a draft Regeneration Plan, the Minister must have particular regard to the views of specific parties and must consider whether the draft Plan is in the public interest.
  • For Regeneration Plans that relate to the Christchurch district, Regenerate Christchurch must review all draft Plans if itself is not the proponent, before making a recommendation to the Minister. When deciding whether to approve the Regeneration Plan, the Minister must have particular regard to the views of Regenerate Christchurch.
Some key features of the CER Act remain:
  • The Minister has the power to suspend, amend or revoke a range of documents, including Resource Management Act 1991 documents and bylaws. However, under the new Act, a proponent proposes the exercise of that power and must be able to explain why the exercise of that power is necessary and preferable to any alternatives. There is provision for public written comments and in making the final decision, the Minister must take into account those comments and the views of Regenerate Christchurch.
  • Like the CER Act, the new Act restricts Councils from acting inconsistently with a Regeneration Plan. The restriction remains in relation to Recovery Plans.
Other powers provided by the Act

In addition to the above, the Act provides for a range of other powers, including:
  • The transfer of Crown assets, liabilities and land to Ōtākaro Limited - the new Crown company established to deliver key anchor projects in Christchurch.
  • The erection, alteration or removal of buildings, and the ability to carry out such works on private land.
  • The power to direct owners to act for the benefit of neighbouring owners if it would assist the implementation of a Recovery or Regeneration Plan or if the owners have sufficiently linked interests in relation to their properties. Intentionally failing to comply with such a direction will be a criminal offence liable to imprisonment.
  • The compulsory acquisition of land by the Crown.

Christchurch has moved from recovery to a stage of regeneration. This shift is reflected in the new Act that creates Regenerate Christchurch and gives greater recognition to local leadership and community input.
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