New regional water authority for Canterbury?

The independent review into Environment Canterbury  recommends that the government sets up a new Canterbury Regional Water Authority (CRWA) to assume all water related responsibilities in the Canterbury Region.

ECan has failed miserably in its responsibilities for water management in the region where it is of most importance. The report says:

The issue of freshwater management (both ground and surface water) is the single most significant issue facing the Canterbury Region.  The Review Group acknowledges that the scale of the issues being addressed in terms of water availability and quality in the Canterbury Region and the scale and nature of competing demands for that resource is significantly greater than that confronted by other regional councils throughout New Zealand. They are correspondingly of much greater significance to the nation’s well-being.

There are four major river catchments in the region but the Waitaki is the only one with an allocation plan and that was imposed on Ecan by central government when Project Aqua showed up the council’s shortcomings.

The creation of an entirely new specialist entity is, we believe, the only way that the Government can be certain that it has an institution capable of dealing with the complexities involved in resolving freshwater issues in the Canterbury Region. The Authority would assume responsibility for all of the functions of Environment Canterbury related to the management of freshwater in the Region.  This includes:

  • Addressing the complexities involved in balancing the competing interests for the relevant resources.
  • Producing relevant plans for the allocation and management of water resources and water quality within a timeframe to be specified in the legislation.
  • Allocation, monitoring and enforcement of consents relating to water.
  • Addressing the water quality issues that are currently the responsibility of Environment Canterbury.

The Review Group also recommends that the council be replaced by a temporary Commission.

Both recommendations are wise.

All the territorial authorities in the Canterbury Region have been complaining about ECan for years, so too have many of the groups and individuals who’ve had to deal with them.

There has been a welcome improvement since Alec Neil took over as chair last year but the Review Group thinks the problems are too deep-seated to be solved by the existing council which is still divided.

The government has yet to consider the recommendations but I wonder if a complete reorganisation of local authorities in the region might result.

The city and district councils have been looking at a unitary authority. A supercity based round Christchurch and a provincial council further south, perhaps?

9 Responses to New regional water authority for Canterbury?

  1. leftrightout says:

    It’s an odd thought, I know, but I was always under the impression that if the members of an elected body wasn’t doing their job then the electors could replace them with others who would,or at least who showed promise.

    Sacking the council and replacing it with an unelected commission for a full electoral cycle improves accountability how? Why not allow the electors their say?

    Perhaps one of the reasons Ecan is slower in processing resource consents is the fact that it manages about half the country’s fresh water and their are an enormous number of calls on that water.

    “A supercity based round Christchurch and a provincial council further south, perhaps?”

    Are you aware of how far North and West Canterbury extends? I doubt that mid and north cantabrians would be satisfied with being incorporated into Christchurch.


  2. Adolf Fiinkensein says:

    LRO, perhaps it’s a safety measure to ensure you don’t just elect another pack of drongos. Nobody wants expensive mid term special elections. You’ll get your chance to elect your new drongos in good time — when everyone else elects theirs.


  3. leftrightout says:

    Adolf, I wasn’t asking for a special election, just to let the election cycle take its course and the electors being permitted to make their own decision on the make up of the council.

    “new drongos in good time — when everyone else elects theirs.”

    Not if the reccomendation to sack the council is accepted. Whileyou are voting in your new council, we will be forced to settle for a 3 year dictatorship.


  4. homepaddock says:

    This matter is urgent. It can’t wait for another election which may produce the same result – a poorly performing council.


  5. gravedodger says:

    With my limited involvement with local body activities as a elected representative, changing the jockey will only have a minor affect on performance, while the horse continues to eat food, pass waste and run when forced.
    Alec Neil for Sir Kerry only changes who gets to run the meeting and collect the salary, the real performance of the Ecant monster will still be actioned by the staff who totally control the information the elected souls have to base their deliberations on.
    Allocating Political power over water allocation, use and efficiency by people whose continued employment on an electoral cycle has too much of the “inmates in charge of the asylum” about it to have any claim to democracy,fairness, equity or sense of responsibility at all.
    To get elected to Ecant, only requires an approval of a minority of those who KNOW what the issues involve plus a large chunk of the vast number of the electors who are basing their vote on nostalgia for a world that no longer exists.
    Water management is too serious and important to leave in the hands of people whose reason for existance involves in convincing enough of the electorate to reelect them. It should involve those with knowledge of the resource, storage, consumption, economic benefits and community impacts and with sufficient ability to think outside the square to allocate, control and augment the resource where possible.


  6. Richard says:

    Clearly this not just about ECAN. The underlying issue is a lack of national water strategy- you have mentioned water issues frequently in your blog. My contention is that we have plenty of water it but is often not where it is needed. I go further and say that there is enough water to satisfy commercial and environmental interests. Just heard that on the Chris Laidlaw programme this morning there is to be a fellow talking about water claiming that water is going to be more important than global warning. Will try and pick up the audio of this interview and post it here.


  7. homepaddock says:

    You are right on all points.

    There isn’t a national water strategy and our problem isn’t lack of water per se, but that there’s not always enough where it’s needed (and sometimes too much where it’s not).

    There are also legitimate concerns about quality and not just from farming. Didymo is well established in many waterways and urban waste is still discharged with little or no treatment into rivers and the sea.


  8. Richard says:

    Mentioned above, Chris Laidlaw “Ideas Water” podcast
    Not had the opportunity to listen to it (just the beginning) and perhaps the emphasis might appear to be on domestic water; nothing like a potential water shortage to focus the mind.

    A couple of years ago I resigned as the Ngai Tahu representative on the Otago Mayors’ Forum For Economic Development. The Forum applied and got a pot of money to look at the economic future of the region. I proposed that this was an opportunity to look at the region’s macro issues – land use, mining etc including water as an emphasis. I recall the look on the the faces of the Mayor’s around the table- blank, and clearly such issues were too difficult.

    We need affirmative action, Commissioners, to take over ECAN develop a water policy for the region and in parallel for Government to provide a national water policy.


  9. homepaddock says:

    Thanks for the link, Richard. I heard part of the discussion this morning and like you thought it was more on town and domestic water.

    It is a difficult issue but the longer it’s left the more difficult it will become.


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