ECan moves closer to fully elected council

ECan staff moved into their new building on Tuam St in April.
IAIN MCGREGOR/FAIRFAX NZ

ECan staff moved into their new building on Tuam St in April.

Environment Canterbury is another step closer to becoming an elected council.

Legislation paving the way for a two-stage transition of ECan back to an elected council passed its third reading in Parliament on Thursday.

Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith said the time was right to transition ECan back to an elected council, and he welcomed the passage of the bill with support from the Maori and ACT parties.

ECan's councillors were sacked by Smith in March 2010. He stated it was dysfunctional and slowing progress on a Canterbury-wide water and irrigation strategy.

The transition bill proposed seven councillors – four from Christchurch, three from rural districts – and the appointment of up to six commissioners. Two of the commissioners would be nominated by Ngai Tahu, the South Island iwi.

The seven councillors would be elected in October this year to work alongside six appointed councillors, before moving to a fully elected council in 2019.

"The Commissioners have done an outstanding job of progressing the plans required to properly manage freshwater, rebuilding the organisation, strengthening its relationships with the ten councils across Canterbury and supporting the earthquake recovery."

In March, Pleasant Point dairy farmer and Lincoln University chancellor, Tom Lambie, said he 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 10 local zone committees over the last six years.

Associate Minister of Local Government Louise Upston​ said the transition was important in maintaining continuity and the momentum of ECan in areas including the earthquake recovery, the completion of catchment water plans and its work in regional economic development.

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Smith said the transition was particularly important for freshwater management.

"Canterbury had no operative regional plan in 2010, nor any limits on intensification and nutrients. It was a huge step forward when the Commission completed the regional water plan. The key to its success is in completing zone plans in each of Canterbury's ten catchments.

He said the task was doable with the transitional mixed governance model and special streamlined planning process provided for in this bill.

"This pragmatic transition for ECan is about supporting Canterbury's move from earthquake recovery to regeneration, and getting the foundations right for the long-term management of the region's freshwater resources."

 - Stuff

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