Water too important for dog’s breakfast

Canterbury doesn’t need another dysfunctional elected council making decisions on water, former Environment Minister Nick Smith says:

As a cabinet minister, he sacked elected Environment Canterbury councillors and replaced them with commissioners.

When their term expires next year, he hopes they will be replaced by a mixed council of elected and Government-appointed representatives.

In Ashburton on Thursday at a Federated Farmers water forum, he said there were some big water decisions ahead of Canterbury, including bulk storage and tapping into alpine rivers protected by Water Conservation Orders.

He said a fully-elected regional council making those decisions would result in the same “dog’s breakfast” left by the previous council, with views polarised into urban and rural camps.

What is it about Canterbury? From the outside, the Christchurch City Council seems to be similarly troubled by dysfunction and it doesn’t have theexcuse of a rural-urban divide.

Sacking the elected councillors from ECan  was not a decision taken lightly. The Commissioners appointed to replace them were tasked with forming a water plan which ECan had been struggling to do for 20 years.

That plan has been superseded by a national Land and Water plan but it still needs a  local body to oversee it.

Nature has made more than enough of a dogs’ breakfast in Canterbury without aggravating problems with another dysfunctional regional council.

Mr Smith said there was no shortage of water in Canterbury, but too much of the water taken for economic use came from aquifers and lowland streams.
“They only make up 15 per cent of our water resource; 85 per cent is in the big alpine river systems but the moment anyone comes along and tries to use the water everyone says ‘no’.”
He said there was a good chance water rights would be pegged back if there was no progress on storage or alpine river resources could not be tapped. 
That would have consequences for both farmers and the economy.
Mid Canterbury has around 160,000ha of irrigated farmland, returning a gross farm income of $1.36 billion. 
Farmers spent around $800 million. 
By contrast, a 250,000ha Australian cattle station currently had a gross farm income of $50m.

Those with short memories might have forgotten the economic, environmental and social devastation caused by droughts in Canterbury and North Otago before we had irrigation.

Those who farmed and lived through them appreciate the value of water applied carefully when required.

Those of a deep green persuasion believe that water should flow from the mountains to the sea untroubled by human and technological intervention.

Those of more moderate views know  it is possible to irrigate in a way that increases production and protects soils without degrading waterways.

7 Responses to Water too important for dog’s breakfast

  1. robertguyton says:

    So, Ele. You don’t support having the people of Canterbury elect their own representatives for Council?
    You don’t support the democratic process?
    You do support State intervention in what has always been a democratic right for communities to choose their own representatives?
    Have I read you right?


  2. JC says:


    Are you really, truly arguing that Cantabs are people?



  3. robertguyton says:

    You thinking of the woodwork teacher, JC?

    I wonder if Ele’s out today? I was hoping for a response.


  4. Roger says:

    Cantabrians continually prove their feebleness to be trusted with democracy at the local level. 20 years of the shambolic ECan water plan and 2 plus years post the earthquakes by the CCC are more than enough evidence for those without black and red striped socks to know Cantabs should not and cannot be trusted to act in either the regional or national benefit. Local government in Canterbury is a joke. The rest of the country feels deeply for Canterbury and has willingly and without reservation agreed to give Canterbury all it needs to recover and rebuild. That well of goodwill is running dry after the continued and ongoing antics of the Christchurch political classes.


  5. robertguyton says:

    This particular geographically-defined group of New Zealanders can’t be trusted to govern themselves?
    This is sick thinking, ladies and gentlemen.


  6. homepaddock says:

    Yes I was busy today Robert and yes I do support the people of Canterbury having elected representation. But given the dog’s breakfast of the past and importance of getting the water right a mixture of elected and appointed until the mess is sorted could be justified.


  7. robertguyton says:

    “…yes I do support the people of Canterbury having elected representation. But…”



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