Three urgent law changes to aid the recovery of earthquake-stricken Kaikoura have broad support in Parliament and will be debated today and tomorrow.
Two of the bills to allow dredging of the Kaikoura harbour and other major work, and to bring forward changes to Civil Defence's disaster powers are likely to be passed under urgency today. A third that allows bylaws and plans to be altered by Order in Council will have a shortened period for public submissions.
The Hurunui/Kaikoura Earthquakes Recovery (Emergency Relief) Bill deals with the consent process for emergency works, including dredging Kaikoura harbour to restore boat access.
It will also allow farmers in the affected areas to do emergency work on their farms without consent until March 30 next year. Brownlee said farmers would have to notify authorities of any work, but did not need to apply for consents. He said some had already had to dig bores or repair structures on their land, which would normally require a consent.
Brownlee conceded powers such as those for farmers to do remedial work without consent could be abused. "By the same token, most farmers are extremely responsible, they don't have an intention to damage their own properties and where they have to put things back for stock, water, and other such and access they should be able to do it."
Brownlee said discussions with other parties had been constructive and he had been told ECan and the Kaikoura District Council expected to start work on dredging the harbour and clearing slips within weeks.
The dredging work would become a controlled activity.
Brownlee said there had been no input by environmental groups into the legislation to allow dredging of Kaikoura Harbour or for landslide debris to be bulldozed into the sea.
However, he said the Guardians of Kaikoura were aware of what was proposed and as far as he was aware they supported it, as did local iwi.
"The question is 'what's the environmental effect of not putting that opportunity back for people to work and for people to come into the district?' I think that's one of the balances you try and strike."
He said despite the upheaval to the ocean by the quakes themselves, the whales and seals were still there and there were promising signs of recovery for paua and crayfish stocks.
Labour leader Andrew Little said the party supported the legislation.
"We are co-operating with the Government to make sure we get good quality legislation and get it through as expeditiously as possible, consistent with our democratic principles and history."
The Civil Defence Emergency Management Amendment Bill will bring forward changes to Civil Defence's powers to deal with small to medium disasters. It will also give Civil Defence authorities the power to request private landowners undertake earthquake assessments of their properties.
The Hurunui/ Kaikoura Earthquakes Recovery Bill will allow plans and bylaws to be amended by Order in Council to facilitate recovery work. That will go through a shortened select committee process.