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?