Citizen oversight of water abolished in Canterbury

By Daniel Collins 30/03/2010 1


In what was described by opposition MPs as a bloodless coup, Environment Canterbury’s democratically elected councillors will be replaced by a set of central government-installed commissioners. Cantabrians won’t have a democratic say in their regional body until 2013.

Also removed is the Environment Court as a means to appeal consent decisions.

The commissioners will be led by Dame Margaret Bazley, who appears to be a successful and apolitical fix-it person. Whoever the other commissioners are, they will be given…

“…powers to impose targeted moratoria on water take consents and to make decisions on water conservation orders. This is to ensure they have all the tools at their disposal to deliver the step change required to effectively manage Canterbury’s water.”

The final say on water issues will rest with Minister for the Environment, Nick Smith.

Citing ECan’s successes, in the first reading of the Environment Canterbury Bill, Smith cited the Canterbury Water Management Strategy as a work of art:

“I firmly believe that Government’s response to the recommendations of the Review Group should capitalise on the momentum provided by the Strategy.

Mr Speaker, I propose to achieve this by requiring the Commissioners to have particular regard to the vision and principles of the Strategy, which will be included as a schedule in the Act, when making decisions and recommendations on the framework for managing fresh water in Canterbury. “

ECan said it’s ready to work with the commissioners. Though Cr Neill noted that “the complexity surrounding water management in Canterbury should not be underestimated.”

Indeed. Water management in Canterbury is socially and hydrologically complex. On the one hand we have many diverse and competing interests. And on the other, we have a tightly coupled surface water and groundwater system that is very hard to quantify.

PS. For more links: Government press release and the Green Party press release.

PPS. Greens, if you refer to Russell Norman as “Dr” in your press releases, do the same courtesy to Dr Nick Smith.


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