Being caught between two regional councils has little to recommend it.
Two sets of rules and two sets of people to deal with adds to costs, delays and frustrations.
With some of its catchment coming under the Otago Regional Council and the rest under Environment Canterbury, the Waitaki District Council, and its residents, are able to compare the two authorities.
Time after time, they have more problems with ECan than with the ORC.
Difficulty dealing with ECan is not peculiar to the WDC. Other local authorities and ratepayers have also had problems and 10 mayors wrote to government with their criticisms.
Environment Minister Nick Smith and Local Government Minister Rodney Hide have ordered two inquiries into ECan. One under the Resource Management Act which will look at its resource consent performance. The other under the Local Government Act will look at governance and policy functions.
Newly elected chair Alec Neill has responded sensibly to this:
“Since I was elected, I have made it very clear that the council will work constructively with both central government and local councils,” he said.
Asked by the Otago Daily Times if he agreed with the ministers’ comment about “poor performance”, Mr Neill said he wanted answers rather than deny the council may have problems.
He was not going to get into “slagging matches” with the ministers.
The Government had information regarding ECan’s performance with resource consents.
In the 2007-08 financial year it was ranked the worst of 84 local authorities by processing only 29% of consents on time.
Since then, it had made changes which had dramatically im-proved its performance.
“I’m not in denial. There have been areas which have been unsatisfactory. If there remain areas which are unsatisfactory, I’m anxious for those to be addressed,” he said.
Regional Councils have wide ranging powers. Any problems they have internally or in dealings with other local authorities and the public add to costs and frustrations.
Mr Neill has met all mayors in the region since his election and there is more confidence that relationships between ECan and other councils will improve.
Regional Councils are supposed to be putting their energies into ensuring soil, air and water are protected, not wasting their time and our money on politics as has been happening. These reviews will help get Ecan’s focus back where it ought to be.