The decision by Ministers for the Environment and Local Government, Nick Smith and Rodney Hide, to replace Environment Canterbury with commissioners would not have been made lightly.
But this is what the independent review panel chaired by Wyatt Creech recommended. It is also what the mayors of the area ECan covered and other groups including Irrigation New Zealand, requested.
ECan has been plagued by internal politics and delays.
Its rivers are among the most important to the country’s environment and economy yet ECan has failed to come up with a water plan.
Dame Margaret Bazley is chair designate of the commissioners. Kiwiblog notes:
The choice of Dame Margaret is a shrewd one. She is 110% non-partisan, and has a excellent track record of sorting out dysfunctional systems.
In a second post answering criticism that this over rides democracy he also points out:
. . . it happened under the last Government, and to a territorial local authority which has far bigger impact on people’s lives than a regional council. Also done under urgency, and also done at the request of local Councils – but in this case the ten or so territorial authorities.
What is the big difference?
National in Opposition supported Labour, because they put doing the right thing ahead of petty politics. If a Council has not managed a water allocation plan after 18 years, then it is a pretty sure sign than things are wrong and need fixing. Just waving a stick and saying “try to do better” has not worked.
The ministers’ media release includes a comprehensive Q&A which includes extracts from submissions and lists other bodies which have been replaced by commissioners – Rodney District Council, Auckland and Hawkes Bay District Health Boards and 30 Boards of Trustees.
Even with these precedents, replacing a regional council is a radical move.
However, ECan has had 18 years to come up with a water plan and failed dismally. The problem of water allocation and quality in Canterbury requires urgent action.
ECan couldn’t do it and the commissioners will.
They have a demanding job ahead of them and one which must be done as quickly for the sake of the region’s water, wider environment and economy and to enable the return to elected councillors as soon as possible.