A Mackenzie Basin environmental group so upset the boss of Environment Canterbury that he wrote in an internal communication: "God, these people are annoying".
ECan chief executive Bill Bayfield also wrote to an Environment Ministry official in January: "One of the reasons I was willing to underwrite their meeting before Christmas was to get them out of the way." The group he was talking about was the Mackenzie Sustainable Futures Trust.
Papers released to the Timaru Herald under the Official Information Act reveal Mr Bayfield's view that the trust's work was a "silly and potentially confusing" overlap with the Canterbury water management strategy.
"I will not be offering them any more funding. In fact, I would really like them to slip considerably further on their timetable."
Mr Bayfield had agreed to the regional council contributing up to $9000 to cover the cost of a single meeting.
He was on leave yesterday and unavailable for further comment.
The trust, announced at the National Party's BlueGreens conference early last year, proposed to bring together a variety of interest groups to advise central and local government on environmental issues in the Mackenzie and Waitaki basins.
Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean, who was also the head trustee, said there had been a "level of scepticism" from ECan at certain stages.
"I explained to them there was no overlap, as this group was dealing with issues such as land use and tenure review, which the Canterbury water management strategy didn't cover," she said.
The trust initially received up to $100,000 in government funding but almost ran out of money in November before it could release its findings. Its application to the Community Environment Fund for a further $200,000 was rejected, as advisers expressed concern about the trust's ambition. However, correspondence reveals that in February this year the trust received an extra $80,000 from the Environment Ministry to "finish" the project.
The trust's meetings were chaired by Richard Thompson, and attended by representatives of up to 28 separate conservation, farming and local government interests.
Consultant Guy Salmon was in charge of liaising with the various parties and undertaking research.
Mr Salmon said a document would go out to the public within the next month. "I don't want to go into too much detail about it but some of them [proposals] would require changes to legislation from the Government."
He was confident the Government would at least consider the recommendations. "It's been a difficult process but I think it's been positive. To get all these groups, some of whom had quite opposite and entrenched views, to agree to a key set of principles, bodes well for this method in the future."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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