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Parliament passes earthquake legislation

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 29/11/2016 Peter Wilson, Political Writer

The government and opposition parties have worked together to pass emergency legislation that will speed up earthquake repairs around Kaikoura.

Acting Civil Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee has a trio of bills and the first two were dealt with under urgency on Tuesday night.

He will introduce the third bill on Thursday.

The first bill was put through its first reading and has been sent to a select committee, which will scrutinise it on Wednesday and report it back to parliament.

The bill overrides regulations and permits earthquake repairs to be done without the Resource Management Act getting in the way.

Farmers can drain land and sink bores, the harbour can be dredged and slips that are blocking SH1 can be pushed into the sea without the usual lengthy RMA consent processes.

Mr Brownlee told parliament that since the 7.8 magnitude November 14 earthquake there had been only two hours a day, at high tide, when whale watching boats could leave Kaikoura harbour because the seabed had been pushed up.

"Kaikoura depends on tourism - they need to have the harbour dredged, and quickly," he said.

The second bill, which passed through all its stages, has brought forward changes to civil defence laws that were enacted in November but were not due to come into force until next year.

Now they're urgently needed to deal with Kaikoura's recovery.

The new processes that are now in place set out planning and management procedures for the transition from earthquake response to recovery.

The third bill, which will be debated on Thursday, gives ministers special powers to deal with emergencies.

The legislation is similar to that which was passed by parliament after the Christchurch earthquakes.

Before he brought the bills to parliament, Mr Brownlee held discussions with all the other parties and secured their support.

Some changes were made during the consultation process to meet opposition concerns.

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