The issues: What do the ECan candidates think?

Can Canterbury's rivers be swimmable again or is this an "improbable" vision.
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Can Canterbury's rivers be swimmable again or is this an "improbable" vision.

A 200-word blurb in an election booklet is not an ideal way to make voting decisions, particularly when the topic at hand is as wide-ranging as the environment.

We asked the Environment Canterbury candidates for their thoughts on four key regional issues: swimmable rivers, balancing economy and environment, public transport, and the suspension of democracy.

The following are extracts of their responses, which have been edited for brevity.

The responses in full can be viewed here, or embedded at the bottom of the page.

(Candidates Drucilla Kingi-Patterson, Rik Tindall, and John Foster did not respond to an email request for comment)

READ MORE
*The other election: why your ECan vote matters
*No longer swimmable: A community mourns its lost river
*More rivers in Canterbury unsafe to swim in​
*Christchurch City Council seen as 'villains' over disgraceful transport priorities

SWIMMABLE RIVERS

Peter Scott, farmer (South Canterbury) "We are at least a generation away from having the majority of our rivers and streams swimmable."

John Sunckell, farmer (Mid Canterbury) "Can we achieve swimmable rivers everywhere? No, I am happy for that view to be aspirational and genuine attempts put in place to clean up and improve but you can not legislate for the improbable."

Rod Cullinane, general manager North Canterbury Fish & Game (Christchurch) "...this [swimmable rivers] has to be our goal.  Anything less than this is an unacceptable compromise and we must resist political attempts at telling us that this is what we must agree to because of the costs or logistics of doing so."

Claire McKay, farmer (North Canterbury) "I support the goal of swimmable rivers, however there are some huge challenges to overcome if we, as a region, are to achieve that."

Lan Pham, freshwater ecologist (Christchurch) "As a freshwater ecologist, it's clear to me that clean water and swimmable rivers aren't simply a 'nice to have'... Our local streams, rivers, lakes and aquifers have experienced unprecedented pollution and extraction over the last few decades and I think public opinion is quickly growing that this is no longer socially ok." 

PUBLIC TRANSPORT

Dr Cynthia Roberts, ecologist (Christchurch) "Currently there is huge dissatisfaction with ECan's bus routes within the city and the failure of services to connect with satellite towns especially services required by workers that operate out of school hours. Consulting with the public on what they need is essential."

Terry Huggins (Christchurch) "I am not an authority on public transport but I know that a versatile public transport system is needed that reduces traffic flows and reduces carbon emissions. As the community is widespread a fleet of smaller buses electric powered will provide a range of shuttle options that support increased use of public transport."

Bill Dowle rural real estate agent (North Canterbury) "If we are going to have public transport, make it efficient...  The perception of rail seems to always be big engines with a row of carriages. Rail is likely have a place long term in our transport, perhaps with smaller units, it will never be cheaper than now to start."

Craig Pauling environmental planner (Christchurch) "There needs to be a review of the current routes and fleet in line with changing needs… The current routes seem to have created isolation for some, as well as an inability to get to the places people need to get to, for example the central hospital."

Pham (Christchurch) "Improving public transport needs to include moving to lower-carbon vehicles over time (e.g. phasing out diesel buses in favour of electric or diesel-electric hybrids, and perhaps even introducing passenger rail in some areas), but more pressingly and more importantly it needs to focus on investing in the things that will get more people to use public transport more often."

THE COMMISSIONERS

Steve Lowndes, Banks Peninsula zone committee chair, (Christchurch) "The decision to remove elected representatives... was an abuse of power. One of my principal reasons for standing in this election is to help facilitate a return to full democracy in 2019. 

Nicky Snoyink, outdoor adventure guide (Mid Canterbury) "Cantabrians are acutely aware of the declining state of our waterways, and hope that democracy will bring some new voices to the table, a fresh perspective that offers alternatives and the beginnings of a will to move away from more of the same, toward full democracy in 2019."

McKay, (North Canterbury): "I don't have an opinion either way on the decision to install commissioners. There has been a lot of noise around this, which hasn't been translated into candidate numbers or interest in local body elections... I am very hopeful that elected councillors and the appointed councillors can work effectively to continue that which has occurred under the commissioners."

Cullinane, (Christchurch) "Democracy was thrown out the window by the Government's decision to install commissioners who were given a clear mandate to increase intensive farming and the consequent increase in water consents. Personally I disagree with the government's actions although the internal disarray was untenable." 

Roberts (Christchurch) "Such a long period of unelected rule is totally unacceptable... A frightening reminder of how fragile our democratic rights are as well as the power of a moneyed lobby group to persuade a government to act on their behalf against the best interests of the wider community."

Huggins, (Christchurch) "The decision to axe councillors in 2009 and appoint commissioners destroyed local democratic innovation to bring about solutions to local problems. In my view nothing has been improved in solving water pollution. Little has been improved in the management of irrigation."

BALANCING THE ECONOMY AND THE ENVIRONMENT

Sunckell, (Mid Canterbury) "We can not be sustainable if we are not growing and profitable as a community. As we increasingly understand the effects of our environmental footprint we must change practices and we are, but to improve that sustainability and restore some of our impacts on the environment we also need to be profitable."

Dowle, (North Canterbury) "The region needs economic growth as well as the need to protect the environment. Agriculture is well down the road to developing ways to help the environment while having the growth. There will be areas where there is not room for further agricultural growth but many areas of the region growth can occur if managed well."

Snoyink, (Mid Canterbury) "[W]ithout a healthy natural environment, New Zealand's economy will suffer. I don't believe it is a matter of balance, but it is about setting environmental bottom lines which must not be compromised, so that the economy is sustained over time."

Pauling, (Christchurch) "We know our waterways are degraded, and perhaps most alarming, is the many places where groundwater drinking sources are now too unhealthy to use safely or without treatment.  A responsible and successful economy would take steps to solve this. It is not a case of shutting things down but it is about improving practice, dealing with losses, and providing for active restoration and protection of species and processes that we have degraded."

Scott, (South Canterbury) The Canterbury Water Management Strategy sets out a clear understanding of how water management will be dealt with... The underlying vision is to ensure freshwater is abundant and of acceptable quality for us and for future communities. So there is a generational view of where Canterbury needs to be by 2040."

Lowndes, (Christchurch) "Rainfall is trending down, so the storage and efficient delivery of alpine water is what is going to save the agricultural economy from disaster...Current dairying practise is too intensive for the light soils of the Canterbury Plains. We need to wind down the settings which govern nutrient loss so that other agricultural enterprises with less impact on water quality become more attractive to farmers."

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