Canterbury earthquake recovery

The Commission has a unique and necessary role to play in the Canterbury recovery. It has the mandate and expertise to help the people of Canterbury find practical ways to sort problems that have a foundation in human rights.

Human rights matter to New Zealanders. Cantabrians and New Zealanders from all walks of life have responded to the Canterbury earthquakes in a way that has reinforced the respect for values that run deep in New Zealand.

The Commission is working to ensure fairness and inclusion is embedded in the rebuild and recovery process. It has a specific role to monitor human rights issues and will benchmark this work against international best practice.

People with human rights enquiries and complaints are welcome to discuss their issues with the Commission’s Enquiries and Complaints team.

The Commission has received in the order of 450 direct approaches, enquiries, registrations of concern, and complaints about the Canterbury earthquakes between 4 September 2010 and April 2016.   

These approaches cover a number of aspects, including:

  • Difficulties dealing with EQC [Earthquake Commission] and private insurers
  • Government land zoning decisions
  • Deadlines to accept the Government purchase offer of red zoned properties
  • The Government purchase offer to residents of uninsured properties
  • The application and removal of s. 124 notices [issued when a house was considered by the Christchurch City Council to be structurally unsafe as a result of earthquake damage]; and,
  • Inadequate housing.

The Commission will also continue its commitment to working with the people of Canterbury, Government and its agencies including CERA, tangata whenua, local authorities, non-government agencies and business to ensure that:

  • the voices of vulnerable and affected people are heard and their dignity respected
  • the recovery goal to make Christchurch the world’s most accessible city is achieved
  • rights, such as the right to health are realised and not compromised by uncertainty or unneeded delay in getting a safe and warm home and a connection to the community.

Monitoring Human Rights in the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery

The Human Rights Commission’s report Monitoring Human Rights in the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery has been released. The aim of this report is to encourage influencers and decision-makers to apply a human rights approach, by putting human rights principles at the centre of decision-making in civil emergencies, and more broadly when developing social policies. This report looks back at some of the human rights challenges arising through the recovery over the past three years, and also highlights positive aspects of the recovery related to human rights.

Read the full report: Monitoring Human Rights in the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery PDF (3Mb)

Human Rights Approach resource: Making People Count in a Disaster (PDF A3 poster)

Accessible versions:


5 June 2014

  • The Human Rights Commission has raised concerns that a proposed law change, the Building (Earthquake-prone Buildings) Amendment Bill, that may breach New Zealand’s international and human rights obligations. Disability Rights Commissioner Paul Gibson appeared before the Local Government and Environment Select Committee Select Committee today.

    Download the Commission’s full submission here: Building (Earthquake-prone Buildings) Amendment Bill Human Rights Commission Submission (PDF).

14 October 2013

2 September 2013

30 August 2013

  • High Court decision in Quake Outcasts case

    On Monday 26 August the High Court issued its judgement in the case of Quake Outcasts v The Minister for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery & Chief Executive of the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority. The Human Rights Commission intervened in this case to make human rights arguments to the Court. A copy of the judgment, along with a copy of the Commission’s intervention can be accessed below. The case was taken by a group of uninsured land and property owners whose properties were affected by the Christchurch residential red zone decision. They argued that offers of a 50 per cent buyout were not made in accordance with the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Act 2011, were oppressive and in breach of their human rights.

    The Court upheld the case made by the applicants, finding that the creation of the red zone was an unlawful interference with the right to use and enjoy one’s home. This reflects the position taken by the Commission as intervener. The Court concluded that ‘buyout’ offers made to the applicants were not made according to law and are set aside. The Court directed the Minister for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery & Chief Executive of the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority to reconsider these decisions.

    The Commission views this decision of the High Court as important in relation to the right to property, and in relation to the way in which decisions such as the decision to red zone in Canterbury impact on human rights of people living in New Zealand.

    The Commission has also recently commented on the right to property and that it is a human right in its Constitutional Review Submission. The relevant section of the Commission’s Constitutional Review submission is extracted here

    Click here to read the High Court’s decision

    Click here to read the Commission’s submission

10 June 2013

  • Port Hills property owners now have until 31 January 2014 to accept their Crown offer: The Port Hills offer process is different to the flat land as property owners must complete final settlement within six weeks of accepting the Crown offer. Click here to find out more

28 May 2013

  • Christchurch red zone residents who meet specific criteria can seek an extension of up to six months to the settlement date for their Crown offer: CERA’s Chief Executive Roger Sutton, says strict criteria will apply and that the extension applies to properties on flat land only. Click here to find out more

20 May 2013

  • Residential Insurance Advisory Service begins: The Residential Advisory Service started up last week. It offers a free call service which provides help with insurance claims for earthquake affected residential property owners. It is not available to those taking legal action against their insurer, in Earthquake Commission mediation or dealing with the Insurance Ombudsman. Click here to access their website or phone 0800 777 299.
  • EQC and Winter Wellness: Fletcher/EQC have plans to escalate urgent work, eg for those who have chronic health conditions, or the elderly.  Click here for details
  • New Community question and issues forum: CERA have developed a new Community question and issues section on their website, which brings together different agency responses to common questions, click here to access

20 December 2012

  • The Ombudsman’s report on the Official Information Act  issues relating to the Canterbury school closures has been released.

    Ombudsman Dr David McGee has found the Ministry of Education acted wrongly in its handling of requests for official information about Christchurch school closures.  He is now planning an investigation into whether the Ministry’s processes for disclosure of information are adequate to ensure effective and sufficient public consultation around school closures generally.

    Key conclusions from the report are below:

    “School closures and mergers are decisions that have a major impact not just on the affected staff, pupils and parents, but on the whole communities in which the schools are based. Therefore, effective consultation is of utmost importance. I think that it is necessary to define what and when information should be released proactively to ensure that a proper, informed and fair consultation is held. Schools and parents should not have to ferret out information by making official information requests. They should be presented with the relevant information in a comprehensive and comprehensible form so that they can participate effectively in the consultation process.

    In order to establish whether Ministry processes are adequate to ensure effective and sufficient consultation for school closures, it is my intention to undertake a general investigation into the policy and practice of the Ministry regarding such consultations. I will make further comment about the ambit and timing of this investigation early in 2013.”

    Click here to read the full report

Integrating Migrants In Disaster Risk Reduction

There are more migrants on the move today than ever before. On Thursday, 25 February 2016, the MICIC Initiative hosted a global webinar on integrating migrants in Disaster Risk Reduction. Watch the Webinar here.