FROM SCOOP: As of last night, New Zealand has surrendered the moral high ground from which to could denounce the dictator of Fiji, who – as such rulers tend to do – also sees his powers as being necessary for the greater good.

Via the Canterbury Earthquake Response and Recovery Act, all parties in Parliament have voted to put Canterbury – and the rest of the country – under the dictatorial rule of Gerry Brownlee, the Minister for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery, from now until 1 April 2012.

Brownlee’s ‘recommendations’ as section 6 (3) of the Act calls them, “may not be challenged, reviewed, quashed, or called into question in any court.” The only things Brownlee cannot over-ride at the flick of his hand are habeas corpus, the New Zealand Bill of Rights, our right to vote, and the 1688 Bill of Rights. The Human Rights Act has been left off that shortlist.

The main restraint (such at is) contained in the Bill is in section 6 (2) which requires the Minister to “take into account the purpose of this Act.” a proviso which would still allow almost anything to be rationalised. It is not as if one seriously expects Brownlee to don jackboots and run riot – but until 2012, he has been given the license to do anything, anywhere, in the name of rescuing Canterbury from the effects of the quake. Just how sweeping those powers are has been tabulated on No Right Turn’s site, as follows, Brownlee can:

* repeal Schedule 4 of the Crown Minerals Act;
* ban unions;
* strip anyone he likes of citizenship. Or, for that matter, grant it;
*make murder, rape, and bribery legal;
* overturn the results of the SuperCity election;
* declare the Treaty a “simple nullity” and sack the Waitangi Tribunal;
* legalise torture, or medical experimentation on pensioners;
* ban booze and legalise marijuana;
* declare himself immune from the OIA (which given his performance, I’m sure he’d love to);
* vest the foreshore and seabed now and forevermore in Paul Holmes;
* remove income tax on the rich;
* overturn the nuclear-free legislation;
* repeal the ETS, or exempt anyone he wants from it;
* legalise discrimination against gays or Catholics;
*grant permission for the Central Plains Water Project.

Obviously, such sweeping powers shouldn’t be conferred on anyone. Canterbury’s needs do not require such legislation to be passed, and without any prospect of review until 2012 – not when such an avowedly narrow purpose is being served.

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