ECan 'mourned' four years on

Four years since government took over

SHELLEY ROBINSON
Last updated 14:59 01/05/2014
ecan protest
IAIN MCGREGOR

'MOURNING ECAN': Protesters in Cathedral Square mark four years since the government removed Environment Canterbury' elected councillors and appointed commissioners to run the regional council.

ecan cairn
IAIN MCGERGOR
SYMBOLIC: Rosalie Snoyink puts her hand on the cairn that symbolises a loss of democracy.

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In a ceremony more akin to a funeral, protesters have laid wreaths and had a moment of silence to mark the fourth year of regional councillors being ousted by the government.

About 150 people gathered in Cathedral Square to protest Environment Canterbury still being run by government-appointed commissioners led by Dame Margaret Bazley four years on.

The protest paled in comparison to the first one four years ago, where thousands gathered to place river stones in a cairn to protest the appointment of the commissioners.

The cairn from that day is still in Cathedral Square.

Green Party leader Russel Norman said in spite of the low numbers at the protest the sentiment of four years ago remained.

He said the government held the reins of control over how water was used, benefitting just ''a small number of dairy corporations''.

Port Hills Labour MP Ruth Dyson said commissioners had been in power too long and the party have written to the United Nations about its concerns.

''It was wrong and bad in the short term, it has now wrong and bad in the long term,'' she said.

She said two important UN treaties confirmed it was a human right that citizens had a say in the running of their country and were involved in public affairs.

''The National Government has shown it has no concern for the democratic rights of people here because they didn't just take away the right to elect regional council members once, they've done it twice and there is nothing stopping them doing it again.''

The Labour letter, addressed to the UN human rights committee, said the ongoing denial of democratic rights breached international agreements.

''Having councillors at ECan appointed by and accountable to a minister from New Zealand's central government eliminates the vital democratic link between citizens... and the decision-makers.''

Appointed councillors faced no political sanction if there was public disagreement with their decisions,'' the letter said.

Former ECan councillors Jane Demeter, Rik Tindall and Eugenie Sage were at the protest.

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