Environment Canterbury transition plan announced

  • Louise Upston
  • Nick Smith
Local Government Environment

Environment Canterbury (ECan) will move to a mixed governance council of seven elected councillors and up to six appointed in 2016 as a transition to a fully elected council in 2019, Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith and Associate Local Government Minister Louise Upston announced today.

“Environment Canterbury has made huge progress in developing a comprehensive water plan, supporting the earthquake recovery and in rebuilding relationships with the region’s 10 councils. This phased approach ensures we maintain the momentum in completing Canterbury’s water plan and work on the earthquake recovery, while providing an orderly transition to a fully elected council in 2019,” Dr Smith says.

“The mixed model will also help maintain the strong relationships that have been built between ECan and Ngāi Tahu, and the Canterbury councils. The people of Canterbury need certainty and continued stable governance to deal with the unique challenges of freshwater management and the earthquake recovery,” Ms Upston says.

The mixed governance plan means a majority of ECan councillors would be elected at the local body elections in October 2016, with four elected at large in Christchurch, one elected from North Canterbury for the districts of Kaikōura, Hurunui and Waimakariri, one elected from mid-Canterbury for the Selwyn and Ashburton districts, and one from South Canterbury representing the Timaru, Mackenzie, Waimate districts and the parts of Waikati north of the Waitaki River.

The chair and deputy chair of the mixed model council will be elected post-October 2016 by the elected and appointed councillors. The mixed council will carry out a representation review in 2018 under the standard Local Government Act provisions to determine the make-up and wards of the fully elected council for 2019.

The Cabinet decisions announced today follow informal discussions with the Canterbury Mayoral Forum and Ngāi Tahu by Ministers in February, the release of a public discussion document in March, and Ministers meeting all 10 Canterbury councils during consultation. A majority of Canterbury’s 10 councils supported the mixed model subject to the return to a fully elected council in 2019.

“We want to acknowledge the outstanding work of Dame Margaret Bazley and the commissioners. They have transformed ECan from one of New Zealand’s worst performing councils to one of the best. The regional council has played a particularly crucial role post-earthquake in coordinating the recovery effort across the region – a job that would have been near impossible with the strained relationships of the previous council. This transitional approach to restoring a fully elected council fits well with the Government’s broader programme of progressively restoring Canterbury to normal governance arrangements post-earthquake,” Ms Upston says.

“Improved water management remains at the core of the Government’s decisions on ECan, with the region having half the nation’s water take and a third of the region’s hydro-electric generation, and some of the most challenging issues over nutrient management and water quality,” Dr Smith says.

“The commissioners have made huge progress, taking Canterbury from being a laggard to a leader in setting limits on water takes and nutrients. The special powers that enabled commissioners to impose moratoria on water takes and manage water conservation orders are no longer required and will lapse in October 2016. The mixed governance council will retain the limited appeals on plan changes until 2019 to enable the rules to be finalised in each of the zones of the Canterbury Land and Water Regional Plan,” Dr Smith says.

The decisions announced today will be included in a bill to be introduced to Parliament. The bill will be referred to the Local Government and Environment Select Committee with the public having a further opportunity to make oral and written submissions later this year.