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'Get policies in place now' to recover from next big earthquake, think tank warns

Another big earthquake could strike at any time, and New Zealand hasn't yet dealt with the mistakes we've made in the past. 

That's the assertion made by a policy think-tank - which today released a critical report calling for the Government to act now and better prepare us during an earthquake recovery. 

The New Zealand Initiative report criticises the lack of governmental policy on how to deal with recovery.

"My greatest fear living in Wellington is that we end up with a downtown cordon that lasts for a year, kills the city, people start moving out, and you're still stuck in lengthy insurance processes," says co-author Dr Eric Crampton. 

The report points to Canterbury's quake authority - CERA - as rushed and problematic. 

"The biggest problem in Christchurch during the recovery was policy uncertainty. Nobody knew what rules were going to apply and how they could get on with their lives," says Dr Crampton.

"More than having failed to learn from our mistakes, I think that we've avoided thinking about our mistakes, that they haven't been urgent, at least for people outside of Christchurch. And that's been a shame. We need to get some of these policies in place now because we don't know when the next earthquake might come."

Among the solutions the report looks at are:

* Forming an off-the-shelf framework for setting up recovery agencies so they're not scrambling when a disaster strikes.
* Getting councils to put rebuild strategies into their current long-term plans.
* Carrying on with an insurance claim trial which started in Kaikoura, where claimants approach their private insurer first, not the earthquake commission.

Christchurch's Mayor Lianne Dalziel says we should learn from overseas experiences. 

"Understanding that what we got wrong is just as important as understanding the things we got right. I always say we look back not to blame, but to understand," says Ms Dalziel.  

For the Government's part, it says it acknowledges more can be done. 

Civil Defence Minister Kris Faafoi says he'll work with the sector to try and make the system more effective. 

He says the Government has already identified things that could be done differently.

By Arrun Soma

The new report criticises the lack of government policy on how to deal with recovery. Source: 1 NEWS