Parliament’s response to Canterbury earthquake
The severe earthquake that struck Canterbury on 4 September 2010, and the many significant aftershocks, have required a national response. Parliament has an important role to play in dealing with a civil emergency of this scale.
The first function of the House is as a forum for the provision of information about the emergency. The Prime Minister made a Ministerial statement to the House as soon as it met following the Canterbury earthquake, describing the initial response. The Government has also announced specific support and recovery initiatives during questions for oral answer.
Members from all sides of the House, and especially members from the Canterbury region, have described how people and communities have been affected and how they are dealing with the situation. The House has a role in expressing the public mood, and members have conveyed the nationwide feeling of support for, and solidarity with, the people of Canterbury.
During a state of emergency, the Government and other relevant authorities have statutory powers to respond immediately in accordance with a civil defence emergency management strategy and plans. These responses can include actions taken without following steps usually required to comply with the law, and Parliament has delegated this authority as necessary.
With the state of emergency in Canterbury being lifted, the Government identified a need to extend the powers delegated, and to establish a recovery commission to assist with the ongoing response to the earthquake. The Government therefore introduced the Canterbury Earthquake Response and Recovery Bill. With cross-party support the bill was passed through all stages on 14 September and was given the Royal assent by the Governor-General later that evening.
The Canterbury earthquake and its aftermath are of huge national significance, and Parliament has been demonstrating its role as a part of the country’s response to the disaster.
You can read the legislation and the debates or view video footage of the debates from the links on this page.