Environment Canterbury councillors have been given their marching orders by the Government and will be replaced by up to seven commissioners, possibly as soon as the start of May.
Government troubleshooter Dame Margaret Bazley has been appointed chairwoman of the commisioners, and the search is on for the remaining commission members.
ECan staff are being briefed on the sacking of the 14 elected councillors now, at the same time as Environment Minister Nick Smith and Local Government Minister Rodney Hide officially released their announcement.
The councillors met at their Kilmore Street offices at 10.30am today for a telephone conference with Smith and Hide.
Deputy ECan chairwoman Jo Kane said she was "contemptuous'' of the Government's move and the way it had turned its back on the people of Canterbury.
The decision comes after a report former National deputy prime minister Wyatt Creech's investigated failings at ECan.
The report recommended sacking the elected councillors and replacing them with appointed commissioners.
It also proposed a regional water authority.
Prime Minister John Key had sounded a note of caution over dismissing the entire council, however, but said he wants swift action to rectify faults uncovered by the Creech report.
The Government says it will defer local government elections for the Canterbury Regional Council till as late as 2013 after sacking its councillors.
Environment Minister Nick Smith and Local Government Minister Rodney Hide said commissioners would be given additional powers under proposed special legislation to address "urgent problems with water management in Canterbury".
Mr Hide said it was the government's view that the problems identified by the review team were complex and could not be resolved through the normal electoral cycle.
"Commissioners will need a reasonable time frame to resolve these difficult issues. For this reason the Government proposes to defer the local government elections this year for the Canterbury Regional Council.
"The proposed legislation provides for new elections when commissioners have completed their tax but no later than the 2013 local government elections."
Dr Smith said efficient water management was crucial to New Zeasland's competitive advantage and "our clean green brand".
"Canterbury is strategically important with it holding more than half of the country's irrigation water and hydro storage. Governmetn leadership is needed to address Canterbury's lack of a proper allocation plan, increasing problems with water quality and the failure to progress opportunities for water storage."
- with TRACY WATKINS, Stuff.co.nz
- © Fairfax NZ News
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