Decade delay for elections rejected

RACHEL YOUNG
Last updated 05:00 12/10/2012

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Full Environment Canterbury (ECan) elections could have been axed until 2019, nearly a decade after the councillors were sacked, government documents reveal.

The government report dated August 1, released to The Press under the Official Information Act, recommended a mixed model of commissioners and elected members, but no return to a fully elected council until after the local elections in 2016.

"This [mixed model] would be established for ECan until at least 2019, with a review conducted by the Minister of Local Government and the Minister for the Environment in 2017," the report said.

Government-appointed commissioners have been in charge of ECan since democratically elected councillors were sacked early in 2010.

In a government report dated August 27, two options were presented - continuing with the commissioners or a transitional mixed model.

The August 1 and August 27 papers recommended a review of ECan's structure in March 2017.

However, last month Local Government Minister David Carter and Environment Minister Amy Adams appeared to change their minds by announcing ECan elections would not be held until 2016.

In 2010, the Government promised to hold regional council elections in 2013. The commissioners will now stay until at least 2016.

Instead of a 2017 review, a ministerial review of ECan's governance arrangements will be held in 2014, with a view to the organisation eventually going back to a fully elected council.

Green Party local government spokeswoman Eugenie Sage said the Government had broken its promise for elections next year, which meant the same thing could happen in 2016, when the next ones were scheduled.

"Potentially they could just keep on extending commissioners. There's no clear commitment in the bill [allowing the continuation of commissioners] to actually put commissioners out and councillors back in,'' she said.

"It's obvious the Government wants to keep ECan under its thumb and continue to intervene." 

Former ECan councillor Jo Kane said she was not surprised by the revelations.

"I can no longer be shocked at what depths the Government will go to to not have a democratic election around ECan."

She believed ECan would never again have a fully elected council.

"No way; just because of the timing of how they are doing this,'' she said.

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"I don't think there's any hope."

Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker said the Government's rejection of leaving commissioners in place until the 2019 election date was a wise choice.

He said there were "sustainable arguments" for retaining commissioners until 2016, but it was "pretty hard" to stretch that another three years.

Carter could not be reached for comment last night.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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