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This report provides Parliament and the New Zealand public an independent account of how effectively and efficiently the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA) has performed. 

The report is in five sections:

  1. Introduction 
  2. Establishing and managing the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority
  3. Leading and co-ordinating the recovery
  4. Effectiveness in carrying out projects and programmes
  5. How performance was measured and reported

In my view, both CERA and the Christchurch City Council were not as open or transparent with one another as is required for an effective recovery. This caused delays in some programmes.

I acknowledge the challenges for an agency like CERA in communicating with a community that is recovering from a disaster, but CERA could have been more effective and efficient in its communication and engagement with the community. Senior staff devoted considerable time and effort to communicating with the community, and CERA spent a large amount of money in this area.

However, surveys of the community show that the public's trust and confidence in information from CERA declined over time, and many in the community were not satisfied that they had enough opportunities to influence decision-making about the recovery. CERA increased its expenditure on communications, but it did not adapt or change its approach well enough.

CERA was a relatively expensive department to run when compared with other similar-sized public entities. The level of expenditure on administration and support services was large for a small entity, but not unreasonable considering the important, urgent, and complex nature of what CERA was asked to do.

In doing this performance audit, and our annual audits of CERA since it was established, we have identified some important lessons and actions that I consider should be used to prepare for the next time New Zealand needs a recovery agency.

Forming a view on the effectiveness of CERA has been difficult. CERA’s external performance measures were focused on what it was going to do, rather than on what it was trying to achieve. This means that it was not able to provide a good account of its effectiveness or demonstrate its value for money. Having a better performance framework is an important lesson for the future.

This report identifies some important lessons and actions that we consider should be used next time New Zealand needs a recovery agency. In light of the November 2016 earthquakes in Kaikōura and the surrounding region, these lessons are particularly pertinent. 

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