Environment Canterbury chair Kerry Burke lost a vote of no confidence by eight votes to six at this week’s council meeting.
The rebellion was led by South Canterbury councillor Mark Oldfield.
The loss has set up a showdown vote on September 24 when councillors will consider removing Sir Kerry as chairman and, if that is resolved, they will have to elect a new chairman.
It’s been a long time coming.
Problems with his leadership have been fomenting for years, aggravated by a rural urban divide which often resulted in seven councillors on each side of a debate.
The result of the 2008 local body elections led to an impasse when an even number of councillors supported the two candidates for chair – Sir Kerry and Alec Neil. That was settled when Mackenzie councillor Bronwen Murray supported Sir Kerry, even though she had said she would not when seeking election.
Problems have not been confined to those round the council table. Ecan is deeply unpopular with people rural people, especially those south of Christchurch where it’s popularly known as ECan’t.
Relationships between Ecan and district councils in the region are fraught. They have deteriorated so far that the district councils are investigating the possibility of ceding from ECan and forming a unitary authority.
The Waitaki District is divided between the Otago Regional Council and Ecan. The Waitaki District Council and residents regularly complain that it is much more difficult to deal with Ecan than the ORC.
Complaints about Ecan gained credence when it was found to be the worst performing of all councils in the Ministry for the Environment’s biennial Resource Management Act survey.
Problems run deep among councillors, staff and the people they are supposed to serve. A new chair may help relationships but it will be difficult to solve the underlying problem of a council split by political affiliations and dominated by Christchurch, a large urban area which appears to have no understanding of, or sympathy for, the needs of the rural hinterland.
The Press backgrounded some of the issues here.