ECan stops measuring public opinion of its leadership performance

Dame Margaret Bazley, chair of the commissioners, holds the regional leadership portfolio.
MARTIN HUNTER/FAIRFAX NZ

Dame Margaret Bazley, chair of the commissioners, holds the regional leadership portfolio.

Environment Canterbury (ECan) has stopped tracking public opinion of its decision-making performance, saying the targets it set for itself were "not well designed".

Since 2006, ECan has set numerous targets within its "regional leadership" portfolio to monitor progress.

Regional leadership is one of seven portfolios within ECan, and is the only one held by Dame Margaret Bazley, chair of the commissioners.

Three targets within the portfolio involved canvassing the public about ECan's performance every second year.

Through a survey, it asked Cantabrians if they had faith in ECan to make the right decisions for the community, if it provided good value for money, and if they saw it as the region's lead agency for environmental management.

It set itself a target of at least 70 per cent approval to each question, to be achieved this year.

But in its 2015 annual report, ECan revealed it hadn't measured any of the three targets, saying they were "not well designed" and tracking them was "not effective use of ratepayer funds."

Instead, in this year's long term plan, it introduced new measures for the portfolio – none of which involve asking the general public what they think.

It will now monitor its formal agreements with bodies such as the Canterbury District Health Board, its information management, and its relationship with Ngai Tahu.

The decision to abandon the old targets follows a trend of declining performance against them.

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In 2013, the last time the targets were measured, each of the three questions came in at between 55 and 57 per cent approval, well below the target and the results of the elected council the commissioners replaced.

Just 56 per cent of those surveyed in 2013 said they got value for money from ECan – the lowest result since it began asking the question in 2000, and down from a high of 75 per cent in 2009.

All of its new targets are on track to be achieved, according to a recent operational performance report.

Green MP and former ECan councillor Eugenie Sage said dropping the measures was "selective" and showed a lack of regard for public accountability.

"It's the dismissive approach that they have to democracy and accountability," she said.

"They know they can continue to do their work and there's no need for them to consider how well or not the public perceives them to be doing as commissioners."

She said the commissioners had two years to reconsider the targets.

"It underscores the need to restore regional democracy so that council decision makers are properly accountable to Cantabrians through the ballot box."

Of the six 2015 targets for regional leadership, three weren't measured, one failed, another wasn't completed, and one passed.

ECan was unable to provide comment before deadline.

 - Stuff

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