web analytics
The Standard

The Canterbury dictatorship

Written By: - Date published: 9:34 am, September 13th, 2012 - 15 comments
Categories: democracy under attack, national, water - Tags: , , ,

Puddleglum at The Political Scientist has written an encyclopedic  and scathing critique of the Nats’ dictatorship in Canterbury. Some extracts below – but go and read the whole post here.


ECan, the government and the ‘Picture of Dorian Gray’

It is hard to understand why it appears to have received so little attention or commentary nationwide (with some honourable exceptions).

The extension of the rule of the ECAN Commissioners announced by David Carter (Local Government Minister) and Amy Adams (Environment Minister) has created what may be a political ‘tipping point’ in Christchurch, if not Canterbury as a whole.

Saturday’s editorial in The Press – titled ‘Black day for democracy in Christchurch‘ – is astoundingly blunt:

 The brief statement announcing the continued suspension of democracy at Environment Canterbury will take a place in New Zealand history. It outlines the most radical denial of voting rights that this nation has experienced in recent times – a fact that disadvantages Cantabrians and besmirches the Government.

And,

That the Government has prolonged this system – it is called dictatorship – is deplorable and foolish. It not only denies the province healthy administration but it strengthens a backlash against National in the province.

And again,

At the time of the original appointment of the commissioners, people wereoutraged, even though ECan was not popular and regarded as partly paralysed. Cantabrians hated a main branch of their democracy being removed. Had the earthquakes and the difficult and prolonged recovery not diverted the anger, National would have paid a penalty here in the 2011 general election. The anger will return now, this time with an added intensity.

The Government,

relies on the assertion that the commissioners provide efficiency, strong governance, effectiveness, problem-solving, stability.

Those are the justifications of every tin-pot dictator, echoing the sentiments of Suva.

When we ‘bought’ the neo-liberal turn that began in the 1980s we also bought into the notion – whether or not we realised it at the time – that New Zealand, as a society, was “dedicated above all to material prosperity“. Even though those reforms may well have not achieved that end (i.e., material prosperity), the significant point is that that was used to legitimate them – that economic activity was, ultimately, what New Zealand, and New Zealanders, were all about – and we bought it.

At that point, democracy took a back seat rhetorically. It also, potentially, could take a back seat in reality.

Over the past two years that potential has played itself out in Canterbury.

This is why David Carter and Amy Adams could say, with a straight face and believing that they would not be challenged in any way that might threaten their decision – that democracy had to be abandoned. They could be assured that a significant proportion of New Zealanders bought the argument that (supposed) economic efficiency trumps democracy.

Amy Adams – under this rhetorical cover – could explain to us all that,

“The Canterbury region has significant economic growth potential but also faces significant challenges,” she said.

”It is critical for New Zealand that the planning governance structure for Environment Canterbury is stable, effective and efficient.

“To keep the freshwater management work on track, we intend toretain the limited appeal rights on decisions made by Environment Canterbury on plans and policy statements relating to freshwater management.”

And it’s also why John Key could engage in what is now his trademark, exasparatingly self-contradictory form of prose,

[John Key] said he had confidence in the people of Christchurch to pick the right people, but keeping the commissioners would deliver the best results for Canterbury.

In a more plain-speaking manner, Key ran this technocratic justification for the subordination of democracy right the way up the flagpole:

“In reality, with the Christchurch earthquakes coming along, it was our view that if we wanted to have an operative water plan and the issues of water resolved once and for all for the Cannterbury [sic]region, it was important to have another three years of commissioners,” Key said.

An “operative water plan” (the ‘technical matter’ of a ‘plan’), you see, cannot be achieved democratically. Resolving the highly politically-contentious “issues of water” “once and for all“, significantly “for the Canterbury region” – and not for the Canterbury people– requires, in the government’s judgment, “another three years of commissioners“.

And Key continued,

“We want to go back to democracy, we understand the issues and we considered them very closely, but in the end the primary factor was that we thought there needed to be a successful outcome and the job wasn’t yet done.

This “job” that “wasn’t yet done” is clearly one that democratic processes cannot be guaranteed to achieve.

I am angry.

Do these people not understand – or do they simply not care – that the most important aspect of any recovery is not ‘business’ or ‘economic activity’? It is – since they clearly need reminding – collective cohesion and the sense of some sort of power and control that a people have in relation to their future.

It surely is no mere coincidence that appointing ECan commissioners for a further three years puts it conveniently beyond the 2014 date for the implementation of the Land and Water Plan. That plan would have been potentially amendable – by a newly elected council – should an election for councillors have been held in the second half of 2013, as previously promised. But, now, with this latest announcement it will become a cemented-in ‘fact on the ground’ that any subsequent Council will no doubt decide it has to live with – for better or worse.

As John Key put it, by then the “job” will be done. ‘We’ will be faced with a fait accompli.

Anyone who has seen – and experienced – the anti-democratic essence of this government beneath its supposed ‘centrist’, ‘pragmatist’ makeover, can only hope that one day soon its politically loathsome acts will lead to a Dorian Gray-like downfall, so that all we will be left with is the curious memory of a shiny image that no longer corresponds to the ugly reality evident to all:

When they entered, they found hanging upon the wall a splendid portrait of their master as they had last seen him, in all the wonder of his exquisite youth and beauty. Lying on the floor was a dead man, in evening dress, with a knife in his heart. He was withered, wrinkled, and loathsome of visage. It was not till they had examined the rings that they recognized who it was.

(Chapter 20)

15 comments on “The Canterbury dictatorship”

  1. ianmac 1

    Great post.
    I wonder what the “job completed” will look like?
    Will it mean that rivers become seriously depleted and polluted? Will it mean that the irrigation, approved by the Commissioners and paid for with taxpayers money, will change the landscape forever? Will it mean high country lakes like Lake Grassmere will be seriously damaged?

    And will it mean that this Government in “knowing what is best for you incompetent Canterburians” will feel emboldened to attack other areas.
    Big Brother has His Eye on You! And you are next!

  2. weka 2

    Do the people of Canterbury have any legal redress available?

    • Andy-Roo 2.1

      No – the normal routes of redress are not available to us.

      We can’t unelect appointed commissioners

      We can’t appeal their decisions in the Environment Court. This legal pathway has been specifically shut down for the people of Canterbury for the duration of the “administration”.

      It is a grim picture – especially when you add in factors like our elected council losing responsibility for the inner city rebuild, and the other dictatorial powers that CERA has assumed.

      But then we are just carpers and moaners who buggerise around on facebook all day, so our opinions aren’t worth anything anyway.

      Thank goodness we have Jerry, David, Amy , and advisors like Jenny Shipley to tell us all whats good for us.

  3. Janice 3

    Wasn’t there also something about Nick Smith’s brother about to be sued by ECAN? Or is the Alzheimer’s kicking in again?

  4. prism 4

    Janice
    I had forgotten about that.
    http://www.odt.co.nz/102702/minister-should-have-declared-conflict-interest-mp-says
    and the standard were onto it at –
    Help a brother out
    Written By: Marty G – Date published: 1:21 pm, April 20th, 2010 – http://thestandard.org.nz/tag/nick-smith/page/2/ There were four related by MartyG.)

    Now MartyG there’s a name to remember.

    • Janice 4.1

      Thanks for the links Prism, glad to know that I wasn’t mistaken. However even though Tim Smith pleaded guilty I could see no mention of penalty. With the sacking of ECAN did the case get quietly dropped?

      • prism 4.1.1

        Janice 4.1
        I gave you the links. One of them says “debate, said that in June last year Environment Canterbury, accompanied by police, visited the property of Tim Smith and 21 charges were subsequently laid against him.
        Mr Hodgson said Mr Smith subsequently pleaded guilty on all counts.”

  5. AmaKiwi 5

    “Do the people of Canterbury have any legal redress available?”

    We can change our form of government. I see two choices:

    1. Constitutionally protected local government which has powers (areas of responsibility) which cannot be impinged upon by parliament and central government. And/Or

    2. Citizens initiated binding referendums to reject bills passed by Parliament.

    We live in a parliamentary dictatorship. The only way to curb this dictatorship is to remove some of its powers.

    I welcome other suggestions.

    • Colonial Viper 5.1

      A democracy is predicated on the quality of its citizenry and the quality of its leaders. You can put various changes in place which may or may not prove helpful in the final analysis, but youc annot get away from these fundamentals.

  6. AmaKiwi 6

    Draco T Bastard: “The political-right are quite happy for dictatorships.”

    The Labour leaders do, too.

    Labour cannot attack National as dictators is because they’ve done it themselves and can’t wait to do it again.

    They abhor referendums and anything else that would restrain their power.

    It’s time to change our form of governance.

  7. Dr Terry 7

    What an excellent account of events from Puddleglum. Most dictatorships seem to be overthrown, unfortunately, only by revolution. That is hard to imagine in apathetic Aotearoa. The very worst news is that so many voters appear to actually support this clear dictatorship! I have no answers to the dilemma, but can only wait and wonder “how long”? (And “what else are we in for with two years to run?”)

    • BernyD 7.1

      In the old days we would all go on strike ….
      We still could, no time like the present to join the union movement.

      • KJT 7.1.1

        No we can’t.

        Withdrawing your labour in New Zealand is illegal, except in very narrowly defined circumstances.

        Unlike almost all other countries in the OECD, and in common with many repressive Dictatorships.

        Employers, however, are free to withdraw capital at any time.

  8. AmaKiwi 8

    MMP was revolutionary.

Recent Comments

Recent Posts

  • $4 million was to advance trade not settle legal claim
    It is now even more apparent that the $4 million payment to the Al Khalaf group was to advance trade with Saudi Arabia, not to settle a legal claim, says Export Growth and Trade spokesperson David Parker. “Documents released today… ...
    12 hours ago
  • Predictable result of unfair law changes
    National’s destructive labour laws have forced 1000 workers at Talley's-owned freezing works AFFCO into taking strike action just to keep their employer at the bargaining table, Labour’s spokesperson on Labour Issues Iain Lees-Galloway says. “The Government only has itself to… ...
    14 hours ago
  • Changes dilute Coroners’ role
    A planned change to the Coroners Act which means an inquest won’t be required when a death occurs in official care or custody is a backward step and weakens the important role coroners play, Labour’s Justice spokesperson Jacinda Ardern says.… ...
    18 hours ago
  • Obama acts – Key sits on his hands
    President Obama’s plan to tackle climate change proves that leading nations are mustering the courage to do what is necessary, says Labour’s Climate Change spokesperson Megan Woods.  “His plan to cut emissions from United States power stations by a third… ...
    18 hours ago
  • Forestry death guilty plea proves case for reform
    A logging company’s guilty plea over the death of one of their workers proves the need to strengthen health and safety laws, Labour’s spokesperson for Labour Issues Iain Lees-Galloway says. Charles Finlay was killed in July 2013 when he was… ...
    2 days ago
  • Daughter for the Return Home
    Christchurch East MP Poto Williams who hails from the Cook Islands, will be returning this week as part of the Cook’s celebrations on becoming self-governing 50 years ago.  Her family background is connected to the northern Cooks, the islands of… ...
    2 days ago
  • Tiwai Point welcomed but strategy needed
    The  news that Tiwai Point Aluminium smelter will remain open is good news for the 800 workers at the plant and the people of Southland, but points to a need for a comprehensive regional development strategy, Opposition leader Andrew Little… ...
    2 days ago
  • Stalled TPP chance for wider discussion
    Failure to get the TPP agreement across the line gives New Zealanders an opportunity to put more pressure on the Government not to sign away our sovereignty, Opposition leader Andrew Little says.“New Zealand land, dairy and medicines are up for… ...
    4 days ago
  • Will poor TPP dairy outcome stop National selling out our homes?
    After failing to protect the right to stop foreign speculators buying our houses it’s clear the Government is not going to get wins on dairy in their TPP negotiations either, Labour’s Trade and Export spokesperson David Parker says. “Labour has… ...
    5 days ago
  • Feeling aspirational
    Yesterday the Rich List showed the number of people who have over 50 million of wealth had increased by another 15 people since last year. Collectively this group are now worth 55 billion, an increase of over 7% since last… ...
    GreensBy Jan Logie MP
    5 days ago
  • Feeling aspirational
    Yesterday the Rich List showed the number of people who have over 50 million of wealth had increased by another 15 people since last year. Collectively this group are now worth 55 billion, an increase of over 7% since last… ...
    GreensBy Jan Logie MP
    5 days ago
  • Feeling aspirational
    Yesterday the Rich List showed the number of people who have over 50 million of wealth had increased by another 15 people since last year. Collectively this group are now worth 55 billion, an increase of over 7% since last… ...
    GreensBy Jan Logie MP
    5 days ago
  • Bennett’s legacy a test for Tolley
    Former Social Development Minister Paula Bennett has been thrown under the bus by her successor after its been suggested that Ms Bennett gave the green light to an ‘unethical’ observational study of high-risk children, Labour Children’s spokesperson Jacinda Ardern says.… ...
    5 days ago
  • Submission to Greater Christchurch Earthquake Recovery: Transition to Rege...
    Thank you for the opportunity to contribute to the Draft Transition Recovery Plan on behalf of the New Zealand Labour Party.  It is important that the citizens of Canterbury have a voice in the governance of the next step of… ...
    5 days ago
  • Troubled school wanted $25,000 dollars to fence farm
    The troubled Whangaruru charter school asked Hekia Parata for $25,000 to fence the school farm at the expense of spending on teaching, Labour’s Education spokesperson Chris Hipkins says. “This unbelievable revelation comes hard on the heels of Hekia Parata’s decision to… ...
    6 days ago
  • Troubled school wanted $25,000 dollars to fence farm
    The troubled Whangaruru charter school asked Hekia Parata for $25,000 to fence the school farm at the expense of spending on teaching, Labour’s Education spokesperson Chris Hipkins says. “This unbelievable revelation comes hard on the heels of Hekia Parata’s decision to… ...
    6 days ago
  • Government report on sexual & family violence a good first step
    Yesterday the Government released the cabinet paper on progress on the work programme of the Ministerial Group on Family Violence and Sexual Violence. Along with the Human Rights Commissioner and Women’s Refuge, I really welcome the report. I’m relieved that… ...
    GreensBy Jan Logie MP
    6 days ago
  • Government report on sexual & family violence a good first step
    Yesterday the Government released the cabinet paper on progress on the work programme of the Ministerial Group on Family Violence and Sexual Violence. Along with the Human Rights Commissioner and Women’s Refuge, I really welcome the report. I’m relieved that… ...
    GreensBy Jan Logie MP
    6 days ago
  • Prisoner voting disqualification and the Bill of Rights Act
    In 2010, National rammed the Electoral (Disqualification of Sentenced Prisoners) Amendment Bill through Parliament. Paul Quinn’s Member’s Bill existed because Paul Quinn thought anyone who’d been imprisoned was a serious offender, and serious offenders had ‘forfeited’ their right to vote.… ...
    GreensBy David Clendon MP
    6 days ago
  • Mainfreight ‘appalled’ by Government’s rail madness
    The Government has been given a serve by New Zealand-based international trucking and logistics firm Mainfreight which says it lacks a national transport strategy, and has treated rail badly, Labour's Transport spokesperson Phil Twyford says. The company has told shareholders it… ...
    6 days ago
  • National’s Health and Safety Reform Bill: less safety and fewer rights at...
    The New Zealand Council of Trade Unions is embarking on a campaign to fight the changes that weaken the Health and Safety Reform bill. As part of the campaign the CTU has organised vigils with the display of 291 crosses… ...
    GreensBy Denise Roche MP
    7 days ago
  • All options need to be put on meat sector table
    Farmers must be given every assurance that all potential risks have been considered before Silver Fern Farms opens its door to foreign equity, Labour’s Primary Industries spokesperson Damien O’Connor says. “The ongoing saga involving the meat sector and amalgamation has… ...
    7 days ago
  • Flag the referendum if 50% or more don’t vote
    Labour has moved to have the second flag referendum canned if the first attracts fewer than half the eligible number of voters, Opposition Leader Andrew Little says. “John Key has already wasted more than $8 million on his vanity project… ...
    7 days ago
  • 90,000 cars reclassified in botched ACC ratings
    New figures obtained by Labour show the ACC Minister’s botched motor vehicle levy system has resulted in 90,000 vehicles having to be reclassified so far – at a cost of $6 million, Labour’s ACC spokesperson Sue Moroney says. “Nikki Kaye’s… ...
    7 days ago
  • Brutal health cuts confirmed, crucial services suffer
    Chronic under-funding by National has seen the health budget slashed by $1.7 billion in just five years, Labour’s Health spokesperson Annette King says. A report by Infometrics, commissioned by Labour, shows health funding has been cut in four of the… ...
    1 week ago
  • Meth ring under Serco’s nose
    The news that two Serco inmates have been arrested for helping to run a methamphetamine ring from prison should be the final straw and see their contract cancelled, says Labour’s Corrections Spokesperson Kelvin Davis. “National has stood by Serco despite… ...
    1 week ago
  • Ministers failing women and their own targets
    New figures showing just five Ministers have met the Government’s own reduced targets for appointing women to state sector boards is evidence National is failing Kiwi women, Labour’s Women’s Affairs spokesperson Sue Moroney says. “The Ministry for Women’s 2015 Gender… ...
    1 week ago
  • Charges up for some as funding up for grabs
    A proposal being considered by the Government would see some people having to pay more for health care and district health boards forced to fight amongst themselves to fund regional health services, Labour’s Health spokesperson Annette King says “Information leaked… ...
    1 week ago
  • Stop experimenting on kids
    The trouble with the Charter school model is that it is a publicly funded experiment on children. The National Government has consistently put its desire to open charter schools ahead of the safety of the children in them, ignoring repeated… ...
    GreensBy Catherine Delahunty MP
    1 week ago
  • Bank puts the squeeze on mid Canterbury farmers
    News that an unnamed bank in Ashburton has put a receiver on notice over financially vulnerable farmers will send a chill through rural New Zealand, says Labour’s Finance Spokesperson Grant Robertson. “The Government needs to work with  New Zealand’s banks… ...
    1 week ago
  • Key is trading away New Zealand land and homes
    John Key yesterday admitted what National dishonestly refused to confirm in Parliament last week – he is trading away New Zealand’s right to control who buys our homes and land, says Opposition leader Andrew Little. “The Prime Minister must now… ...
    1 week ago
  • Razor gang takes scalpel to health
    Plans by the Government to take a scalpel to democratically elected health boards are deceitful and underhand, coming just months after an election during which they were never signalled, Labour’s Health spokesperson Annette King says “Leaked documents reveals a radical… ...
    1 week ago
  • Spin lines show a department in chaos
    Corrections Spin Doctors sending their place holder lines to journalists instead of responding to serious allegations shows the scale of chaos at the department over the Serco scandal, says Labour’s Corrections Spokesperson Kelvin Davis. “As more and more serious allegations… ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Court ruling shows law should never have been passed
    A High Court ruling that a law banning prisoners from voting is inconsistent with a properly functioning democracy should be a wake-up call for the Government, Labour’s Justice spokesperson Jacinda Ardern says. In an unprecedented ruling Justice Paul Heath has… ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Judicial Review Gamble Pays Off for Problem Gambling Foundation
    Congratulations are due to the Problem Gambling Foundation (PGFNZ) who have won their legal case around how the Ministry of Health decided to award their contracts for problem gambling services to another service provider. Congratulations are due not just for… ...
    GreensBy Denise Roche MP
    2 weeks ago
  • Environmental Protection Agency appoints GE advocate as new CEO
    This week, the Environmental Protection Authority Amendment Bill passed its first reading in Parliament. The Bill puts protection of the environment into the core purpose of the Environmental Protection Authority. This month, Dr Allan Freeth, the former Chief Executive of… ...
    GreensBy Steffan Browning MP
    2 weeks ago
  • Charanpreet Dhaliwal death demands genuine health and safety reform
    The killing of a security guard on his first night on the job is exactly the kind of incident that National’s watered-down health and safety bill won’t prevent, says Te Atatu MP Phil Twyford. The coronial inquest into 22-year-old Charanpreet… ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Arbitrary sanctions hit children hardest
    Increasing numbers of single parents are being penalised under a regime that is overly focussed on sanctions rather than getting more people into work, Labour’s Social Development spokesperson Carmel Sepuloni says. “Figures, obtained through Parliamentary questions show 3000 more sanctions,… ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Hekia just won’t face the facts
    Hekia Parata’s decision to keep troubled Whangaruru Charter school open despite being presented with a catalogue of failure defies belief, goes against official advice and breaks a Government promise to close these schools if they were failing, says Labour’s Education… ...
    2 weeks ago
  • No more silent witnesses
    Yesterday I attended the launch of a new initiative developed by and for Asian, Middle eastern and African youth to support young people to name and get support if there is domestic violence at home. The impact on children of… ...
    GreensBy Jan Logie MP
    2 weeks ago
  • Single Use Plastic Bags campaign – Some wins and some green-washing
    As we near the end of Plastic Free July I’m nearing the conclusion of my Say No To Plastic Bag tour when I will have completed all 30 of my public meetings. The campaign was designed to work with community… ...
    GreensBy Denise Roche MP
    2 weeks ago
  • Single Use Plastic Bags campaign – Some wins and some green-washing
    As we near the end of Plastic Free July I’m nearing the conclusion of my Say No To Plastic Bag tour when I will have completed all 30 of my public meetings. The campaign was designed to work with community… ...
    GreensBy Denise Roche MP
    2 weeks ago
  • Minister must take responsibility for problem gambling debacle
    The Government’s handling of the Problem Gambling Foundation’s axing in a cost-cutting exercise has been ham-fisted and harmful to some of the most vulnerable people in society, Associate Health Labour spokesperson David Clark says.“Today’s court ruling overturning the axing of… ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Labour will not support TPP if it undermines NZ sovereignty
    The Labour Party will not support the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement unless key protections for New Zealanders are met, Opposition leader Andrew Little says.“Labour supports free trade. However, we will not support a TPP agreement that undermines New Zealand’s sovereignty. ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Coleman can’t ignore latest warnings
    Resident doctors have advised that a severe staffing shortage at North Shore Hospital is putting patients’ lives at risk, Labour’s Health spokesperson Annette King says. “They say a mismatch between staffing levels and patient workloads at North Shore has… ...
    2 weeks ago
  • ACC must remove barriers to appeals
    The Government must prioritise removing barriers to justice for ACC claimants following a damning report by Acclaim Otago, Labour’s ACC spokesperson Sue Moroney says. “ACC Minister Nikki Kaye must urgently scrap her flawed plan to remove claimant’s right to redress… ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Six months’ paid parental leave back on the agenda
    Six months’ paid parental leave is back on the agenda and a step closer to reality for Kiwi parents after Labour’s new Member’s Bill was pulled from today’s ballot, the Bill’s sponsor and Labour MP Sue Moroney says. “My Bill… ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Sole parents at risk of having no income
    New requirements for sole parents to undertake a reapplication process after a year is likely to mean a large number will face benefit cancellations, but not because they have obtained work, Labour’s Social Development spokesperson Carmel Sepuloni says. “Increasing numbers… ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Juking the Welfare Stats Again
    Last week the government’s major initiative to combat child poverty (a paltry $25 increase) was exposed for what it is, a lie. The Government, through the Budget this year, claims to be engaging in the child poverty debate, but instead,… ...
    GreensBy Jan Logie MP
    2 weeks ago
  • OCR rate cut a result of flagging economy
    The Reserve Bank's decision to cut the Official Cash Rate to 3 per cent shows there is no encore for the so-called 'rock star' economy, says Labour's Finance Spokesperson Grant Robertson.   "Today's interest rate cut comes off the back… ...
    2 weeks ago

Public service advertisements by The Standard

Current CO2 level in the atmosphere