Council labels Government's Environment Canterbury plan 'arrogant'

Christchurch City Council chief executive Dr Karleen Edwards is critical of the Government's plan .

Christchurch City Council chief executive Dr Karleen Edwards is critical of the Government's plan .

The Christchurch City Council has labelled the Government's gradual approach to returning Environment Canterbury (ECan) to a fully elected body as "extraordinarily arrogant".

In a hard-hitting submission on the Environment Canterbury (Transitional Governance Arrangements) Bill, the council called for the Government to return ECan to a fully elected body as soon as possible.

"There is no justification for the return to a fully representative governance structure for ECan to be delayed beyond October 2016."

The bill, which narrowly passed its first vote in parliament last month, would see full democratic representation restored in 2019.

A mixed representation model was proposed for the 2016 triennial elections, in which seven elected councillors would join six government-appointed commissioners.

ECan has been run by Government-appointed commissioners since 2010, when the elected council was sacked because a review of its performance by former National minister Wyatt Creech found it was dysfunctional and had mishandled the management of freshwater in Canterbury.

The council's submission, signed by chief executive Karleen Edwards and Mayor Lianne Dalziel, said the Government's view that elected members would bring local representation and the commissioners would provide specialist expertise and good decision-making was "extraordinarily arrogant".

The Government had "resolutely clung" to its position that the mixed governance model was the only way to support effective, accountable decision-making and strong organisational performance, but it had never properly explained why a fully elected body could not achieve this, the submission said.

Edwards and Dalziel said by introducing the act the Government "either willingly or by unintended oversight" ignored the principles of local government in New Zealand.

"There is no longer an urgent, over-riding reason for any model other than a return to full democratic representation for ECan's constituents."

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Edwards and Dalziel reiterated the council's earlier view that ECan's public transport functions should be given to local authorities and water management work should be given to a new regional water authority, as recommended in the Creech report.

They were also critical of the Government consulting on only one option, saying it was not a satisfactory basis for introducing new legislation.

"This seems woefully inadequate."

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At Thursday's council meeting, where the submission was unanimously supported by councillors, Deputy Mayor Vicki Buck said she did not think anyone would be left with any doubt about the council's view on the bill after reading the submission.

Cr Andrew Turner said the submission was entirely appropriate.

Dalziel said she felt quite strongly there should be no taxation without representation. 

 - Stuff


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