Environment Canterbury (ECAN for short) is going through something of an existential crisis. The Board should be the vanguard for those promoting environmental concerns (after all, it’s in the name). And yet, for almost a decade there has been little ‘walk’ to go with the ‘talk’.
It began in 2010, when the National Government overthrew the democratically elected Council; arguing that it was so dysfunctional that it was no longer capable of doing its core function. Of course, the real reason was that a majority of the Council had dared to oppose the intensification of dairy farming and irrigation schemes in Canterbury. In place of elected Councillors, National put a team of Commissioners in, who gleefully proceeded to ensure that the irrigation and dairying interests got precedence over environmental issues.
Fast forward to 2016 when a partial democracy was put in place. This was itself a broken promise by National, who had pledged to restore full democracy that year. But under the guise of structural stress supposedly arising from the quakes, Key’s mob determined that we weren’t yet ready to make our own decisions. Faced with seasoned Commissioners, and a senior ECAN staff in thrall with the Commissioners’ direction, the newly elected Councillors struggled to make any meaningful difference to the environmental damage in Canterbury’s waterways and country-side. They also failed to get any traction around any integrated public transport plan. Things got so bad that Extinction Rebellion staged a major sit in to force ECAN to consider declaring a Climate emergency. No amount of subsequent talking points by ECAN can disguise the ongoing lack of leadership on climate change from the very local body tasked with providing it.
No such trouble down the road at the Christchurch City Council. There the Council has taken a lead on promoting environmental issues. And one of the strongest voices has been ex-Mayor, and current Councillor Vicki Buck. Unlike the erstwhile Councillors of ECAN, Vicki has thundered against a raft of policy failures she has seen coming out of the Tuam Street HQ. Water quality; air quality; declaring a climate emergency; promoting an EV bus fleet: Councillor Buck has been a leading voice for them all.
But now the thunder has reached a new level. In a recent public post, Vicki Buck has castigated ECAN and its Councillors over the decision to allow nitrate to leech into Canterbury’s aquifers. I quote:
Ecan – and nitrates coming into your drinking aquifer with their blessing
• Those bloody nitrates … sometimes it’s impossible to read Ecan’s agenda and not explode !!!
Plan change 7 is coming up at Ecan’s meeting this Thursday (11 July 2019).
Its the one which allows nitrates to leach under the Waimakariri River4 and into our aquifer …from which we draw your drinking water .
The current level is about 0.4mg/l . Their proposal is to take it to 10 times that amount !!!! And they seem to have ( well I cant see it anywhere ) nothing that penalises any farmer that doesnt meet the requisite standard. But they are allowing a decade before the first lot of reductions kick in , and then its only 15% and then another decade before the next lot ( also 15% ) does .
On page 74 of their agenda ( although it would be hard to identify cos plain English is not what its written in the issue of Plan Change 7 . https://api.ecan.govt.nz/trimpub…/documents/download/3665272
The attachments , sadly , are not in the agenda … apparently we’re just supposed to take them at their word …
Then they want to have it all done and dusted this side of the election because then it seems you can only appeal on a point of law … whereas the fundamental issue here is the protection of a city’s drinking aquifer which has been completely excluded from the consideration in the report that was consulted on !!! Christchurch City Council is not on the Waimakariri Zone Committee.
So we are all only going to get a month for submissions …from July 20th by the look of it ..
The City Council has submitted in total opposition to any increase in nitrates on this – and , as you can see- been totally ignored. Just as the Waimakariri ZIPA report on which its based didn’t even think to consider the cost to everyone in the City of damage to its drinking water aquifer .
It considered the cost to farmers in the affected Waimakariri area – but nothing in the economics about the city …or your health . Ecan argue constantly that the nitrates are “in the post “ but they are taking action incredibly slowly to restrict them . They could go much much faster .
Then just to add insult to injury they suggest ( p111) that there should be more research done by the Government about the harm nitrates cause and they are going to write and suggest it !!! Well… .bugger me …if you’re not sure how much harm they cause -despite a lot of research why the hell are you letting them come into our drinking water !!!!
Be ready to do some serious submissions… cos this is -in a word – revolting!
Vicki’s post is getting a lot of public support, and it’s easy to see why. The current elected Councillors seem no more effective in standing up for the environmental crisis facing Canterbury than the Commissioners who did the damage in the first place.
For ten years the trend at ECAN has been to prioritise short term commercial gain over the damage to our local environment. Cantabrians elected people in 2016 to change that. But, as Vicki is so forcefully arguing, on issue after issue they aren’t delivering it.
When it comes to leadership on Climate Change in Canterbury, we’re seeing it from Vicki and the City Councillors who are supporting her: including Turner, Cotter, Johanson, Livingston, Galloway, Chen and Clearwater (never a more apt name!)
Vicki is retiring from the City Council this term: but I doubt she’ll be retiring from supporting Climate Change. Maybe she’ll put her hat in the ECAN ring, or maybe she’ll be on the side-lines. But what Vicki won’t be is silent. She’s been the leader we’ve needed at ECAN but haven’t had. Thank Heaven she’s bucked that trend.
If you’re in Otatauhi this Thursday morning, join Vicki and Extinction Rebellion as they challenge ECAN to overturn this disastrous decision and stop nitrate leeching into our waterways.