A new department will focus on Christchurch's recovery from its devastating earthquake but concerns are already being raised that locals will not have enough of a say as Wellington bureaucrats make calls on how to go ahead.

Prime Minister John Key, Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee and Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker today announced the formation of the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA) - a standalone Government department.

Deputy State Services Commissioner John Ombler would be temporary chief executive of CERA, which would have a lifespan of five years with operations reviewed annually.

The State Services Commission expected to have appointed a chief executive within five weeks.

"Rebuilding Christchurch and the wider region following the earthquakes is one of the Government's highest priorities and we are committed to providing the necessary resources to make this happen over the coming weeks, months and years," Mr Key said.

Labour MP Clayton Cosgrove said his party would give CERA a chance but was concerned there had not been enough consultation about its formation.

"My fear remains that the new authority will unleash hundreds of Wellington bureaucrats with clipboards and pens tripping over their own red tape as they seek to impose their solutions on Canterbury people who already know what has to be done," he said.

Local authorities could not deal with the recovery on their own but Cantabrians should be given a voice on the future of their city, he said.

Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) president Lawrence Yule said it supported CERA as long as it worked alongside the Christchurch City Council.

"This situation is unprecedented in New Zealand but Christchurch doesn't have to rebuild its city from scratch. A good deal of planning work has been done."

Local authority strategies would be helpful, he said.

LGNZ also had questions about what area would be covered by the authority, which it hoped would be clarified quickly.

Mr Parker said the announcement gave certainty and that his council would work in partnership with Cera, while Mr Key gave an assurance of a collaborative approach.

Mr Brownlee said CERA would have wide powers to relax, suspend or extend laws and regulations which would be used responsibly and for clearly defined purposes related to earthquake recovery.

"These are essentially reserve powers and there will be checks and balances on the use of these powers so the public can have confidence they are being used wisely and with restraint."

A four-person independent review panel, chaired by a retired High Court judge, would assess all legislative and regulatory changes proposed by the department.

A forum of Canterbury community leaders would ensure CERA reflected the issues that were important to local people.

CERA's immediate role included establishing close working relationships with local government, engaging with Ngai Tahu, business groups and the wider community and coordinating and prioritising recovery planning by central government agencies.

"As we establish the office in the weeks ahead we'll be opening official lines of communication with all these groups and gathering the information necessary to assess the best approaches to long-term recovery," Mr Brownlee said.

"A key early step will be the appointment of around 20 individuals to the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Community Forum."

Many of powers in the proposed legislation were based on those put in place when establishing the Queensland Reconstruction Authority following the state's devastating floods in January, Mr Brownlee said.