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CERA stumbled after early quake action: report

New Zealand’s Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA) struggled with a less defined role once the Christchurch emergency response ended, and was overly optimistic in its communications, an Auditor-General’s review has found.

CERA effectively managed the demolition of condemned buildings and the development of a recovery strategy after the quakes in 2010/11, then took on a range of projects as the focus turned to rebuilding.

By the time it was wound down in April last year, the authority was responsible for 24 major programs and more than 130 projects.

“CERA struggled to prioritise and balance its strategic leadership role with delivering the expanding portfolio of programs and projects,” the report by Controller and Auditor-General Lyn Provost says. “As a result, its role became less clear, which confused staff, stakeholders and the community.”

An often upbeat tone about progress contrasted with the feelings of Christchurch people struggling with psychological effects and facing challenges such as managing insurance claims and disruption to their lives.

CERA’s own assessment says people felt they were being talked at, rather than listened to, while community confidence fell when unrealistic timelines were not met.

Ms Provost says it took a long time to set up financial and management controls to the level normally seen in public entities, and improvement was still needed five years after it started.

“Although CERA achieved much, there were areas where improvements could have been made,” Ms Provost says. “In light of the November 2016 earthquakes in Kaikoura and the surrounding region, these lessons are particularly pertinent.”

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