Water fears change ECan, Woods out

01:43, Jan 31 2009

Canterbury's use of water is shaping as the major issue for Environment Canterbury (ECan) in the next three years.

Of the eight new regional councillors voted on to the ECan council on Saturday, four were elected on strong pro-water tickets.

Four sitting councillors, including outspoken Cr Bill Woods, were dumped in what returned member Cr Alec Neill compared to a "tornado" ripping through the region.

The toppling of Woods from the conservative Selwyn-Banks Peninsula constituency by former Forest and Bird advocate Eugenie Sage was one of the biggest surprises.

Another was the election of two Save Our Water candidates, David Sutherland and Rik Tindall, in the Christchurch East constituency, displacing Richard Budd, ironically known for his commitment to water issues, and Elizabeth Cunningham , both from Christchurch 2021.

Independent candidate Jane Demeter was elected in the Christchurch North seat, along with former Christchurch City Council deputy mayor Carole Evans, while sitting councillor Anne Carroll missed out.


Other new ECan councillors are independent Bronwen Murray in the South Canterbury constituency, Pat Harrow, another independent candidate in the Christchurch West seat, and Jo Kane in North Canterbury.

The six stalwarts around the ECan council table are chairman Sir Kerry Burke and councillors Professor Bob Kirk, Neill , Angus McKay, Mark Oldfield and Ross Little .

Burke's chairmanship of the council may now be in jeopardy because of the weakened Christchurch 2021 faction, down from six to two.

Neill, who is likely to be a contender for the chairmanship of the new-look council, said yesterday the "dust needed to settle" before there was any debate on the next chairman.

"It's not something I have yet tried to sit down and do the numbers on."

Other councillors said it was too early to talk about who was in the chair.

Burke said the "dramatic changes" to the council had to be absorbed.

"Clearly, there will be significant impacts.

"It's sent a very clear signal about water."

He was disappointed for Budd and Cunningham.

"Richard and Elizabeth were very fine councillors, very good in terms of water quality issues and that's unfortunate. But that's life, the way it goes."

Sage said she was "surprised, delighted and humbled".

"It's such a diverse electorate mix of rural and urban, townships and the peninsula. It's an interesting result – such a strong message from the electorate that people want water taken more seriously and a stronger approach to sustainability."

Woods had left a message on her answerphone congratulating her, Sage said.

Woods said a major factor in his loss was he had been "crucified" by coverage in The Press of his mileage claims, "because everybody thought I was being dishonest".

"The outcome of the elections? The Press, one, Bill Woods, nil.

"I love that car, it has been very, very good to me. It's 134km for me to go to a meeting (in Christchurch), and there are maybe three in an average week. With all the money I'm supposed to have got from the council for running it, I should be able to buy a Mercedes."

For 18 years he had been "working my guts out" for people and having "phenomenal successes", Woods said.

He was not surprised that Sage won the seat.

"I knew I was going to lose. I rang and congratulated her, got her voicemail."

Asked what he was going to do now, Woods said he was going to work on his house and wanted to start up a newspaper to "slag The Press".

Burke said Woods' ousting was "the most astonishing" of the ECan results.

"I have huge respect for Eugenie Sage – she will be an outstanding councillor – but it is still a surprise.

"I knew she was working hard and Bill had run a campaign where he hadn't done any advertising – hadn't appeared to outside observers to make any particular effort."

Budd said he was philosophical about losing his Christchurch East seat.

"I got to the position of thinking where, if they want me they want me, and if not, I have some other challenges to deal with next week.

"I thought I'd done more in the last three years than in the previous nine years, but I didn't have a feeling of confidence.

"Obviously, the electorate has spoken. When it came to water, I was one of the the most passionate advocates about protecting groundwater and getting planning right."

Tindall said the public had obviously decided water was one of the big issues.

The Press