ECan commissioners to run as councillors?
Some Environment Canterbury (ECan) commissioners could put themselves up for election as councillors later this year when the regional authority begins its return to local democracy.
Rumours of this twist have been growing with the ECan Transitional Governance bill now progressing through Parliament.
ECan's council table was sacked by Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith in March 2010. Smith stated it was dysfunctional and slowing progress on a Canterbury-wide water and irrigation strategy.
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The transition bill proposes seven councillors – four from Christchurch, three from rural districts – and the appointment of up to six commissioners. Two of the commissioners will be nominated by Ngai Tahu, the South Island iwi.
ECan deputy chair David Caygill said it was plain the existing commissioners had three choices – hang up their hats, make themselves available for re-appointment, or stand as candidates on their own account.
Caygill said such questions would not be addressed until mid-year.
"I've not developed my thinking to that point. As [ECan chair, Dame Margaret Bazley] says, let's just focus on what we're doing. Those decisions will keep for another day."
Other commissioners had taken a similar stance. David Bedford, a Hurunui wine-grower and former Telecom executive, said he did once stand for council in Havelock North. "But that was 40 odd years ago. And I missed out."
Bedford said he would be happy to remain involved. "But right at the moment, the best thing to say is that I haven't made up my mind."
Pleasant Point dairy farmer and Lincoln University chancellor, Tom Lambie, said he personally was unlikely to stand simply because he lacked that kind of political background.
He said there should be more than enough strong candidates – especially for the rural seats – because of the number of newcomers who had gained experience sitting on the Canterbury Water Management Strategy's ten local zone committees over the last six years.
Former ECan councillor and Green Party MP, Eugenie Sage, said Canterbury's farming lobby was already drumming up its rural candidates.
She said the transitional legislation left ECan under the Government's thumb.
"It's a second class arrangement because only the commissioners talk to the minister. So if the scope to influence the direction of water management around the council table is compromised, you might feel why would you want to be there banging your head against a brick wall?" Sage said.