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NRT: Not even pretending anymore

Written By: - Date published: 1:20 pm, January 21st, 2013 - 66 comments
Categories: democracy under attack, local government, national, sustainability, water - Tags: , ,

Missed this last week – from I/S at No Right Turn.

Not even pretending anymore

The government has given up even pretending that its suspension of democracy in Canterbury is because an elected ECan would make the “wrong” decisions:

But the Government says elections this year could potentially produce the same deadlock between rural and urban councillors that created the need for commissioners in the first place.

It says the commissioners’ work on freshwater needs to be finished before elections are held.

Local Government Minister David Carter says he did not want the commissioners’ unfinished work on water going to a council that may have the same rural-urban balance of power as its predecessor.

Which, when you get down to it, is the same justification used by Pinochet, Franco, Bainimarama, and every other two-bit despot: “those fools will ruin the country by voting for something I don’t like, so therefore their decision must be overturned”. Yes, National used a law rather than guns to do it – but that’s just a question of means. The underlying anti-democratic ideology is exactly the same.

Before the dissolution, urban representatives responded to their voters, and moved to protect Canterbury’s water. That meant that farmers didn’t get everything their own way. That’s democracy – and if one of our two major political parties doesn’t like it, then I think we have a severe problem in our country.


66 comments on “NRT: Not even pretending anymore”

  1. Peter 1

    Well, sort of. There’s a fair bit of urban vs rural in the situation, and handling a dairy boom with farmers chomping at the bit to get their part of it is never easy. But a lot of it was poor systems at ECan for handling it, and an RMA that didn’t provide for any easy ability to put moratoria and minimum flows on already over-allocated catchments. It had also handled its relationships with district councils poorly, leading to further political pressure.

    It took an amendment of the RMA itself in 2003 to get an operative minimum flow and allocation regime on the Lower Waitaki, and I believe that ECan asked for more resources later in the term of the fifth Labour government to address its unique situation. Central government didn’t provide anything.

    So in many ways, kicking the can down the road resulted in National’s rather draconian measure to remove the Councillors entirely. I always thought that was odd, because the old Labour-friendly chair had just been removed and replaced with Alec Neill, a former National MP for Waitaki, and a foot soldier for National for many years.

    As a planner maybe I see more complexity than others, but its far from a rural vs urban issue alone. It’s actually an issue of ecological limits, and most New Zealander’s limited understanding of them.

    Still I would have supported a half appointed, half elected Council, in transition back to full democracy. That may be an approach that has some merits on other regional councils as well.

    • tracey 1.1

      I don’t understand the degrading of the ecosystem to support farmers who have chosen to run dairy cows on arid, drought susceptible land. That’s ridiculous. They are doing the wrong kind of farming for the land and climate… I dont know of many other businesses that choose to set up somewhere they cannot succeed and then require an entire electoral process to be unwound to save them. It’s tragic.

      • Peter 1.1.1

        Well, they’ve terraformed the land using irrigation, which solves that problem.

        Some would argue that we’ve been terraforming NZ ever since humans arrived, by building up (and losing) soil, removing forests, draining wetlands etc. So in that respect, taking water from the ground and rivers and spreading it on paddocks as artificial rain is no different. Yes, it works. We’re seeing it now through Central Otago too – two dairy conversions there that I know of in the last week alone.

        You could argue that the ecosystem has been irrevocably changed since Maori fires burnt most of the Canterbury plains, and white settlers finished off what remains. So it’s a modified landscape from that which was originally there. So is all NZ farmland really – there’s no indigenous culture of pastoralism in NZ, we brought it here with us. Without that, it really would be chasing birds in the forest, or fishing in the rivers for food.

        The difference with dairy is just one of intensity and scale, rather than direction.

        There are advantages to irrigation in the right places beyond dairy though, and one of them is dealing with the effects of (not on) climate change. Irrigation is not all bad (it stops dust storms for instance, and builds up soil). On widescale though, no way.

  2. vto 2

    Yes, well thanks for posting that and getting my blood to boiling level again…

    “That meant that farmers didn’t get everything their own way. That’s democracy – and if one of our two major political parties doesn’t like it, then I think we have a severe problem in our country.”

    Yes we do have a severe problem in this country.

    David Carter, Amy Adams, Nick Smith, John Key and all the others are no better than tin-pot dictators. They deserve to be spat on at every opportunity. Pitoooey in their face.

    The only thing lacking, as you say, was the guns. But in fact the guns were used, as the jackboots of the state always sit underneath by way of threat. For example, if the councillors had refused to vacate the buildings what do you think would have happenned? Police. Which is guns.

    This whole greedy selfish tin-pot dictatorship theft is exactly imo the biggest thing to happen in this country during the entire term of this bastard government.

    Fuck them.

    • Peter 2.1

      What of the better environmental outcomes that will happen in Canterbury as a result of the new regime, and more particularly, the plans that its written. Also, what of the new relationships between farmers,communities, and environmentalists, occurring through the zone committee process?

      None of this would have happened had the grid lock remained.

      I’m not saying it’s super rosy on all fronts, but there has been huge progress, which needing enabling legislation. And, it’s better than a separate Canterbury Water Authority, that was suggested to deal with the issue, in isolation to all the other planning issues that regional councils must undertaken in tandem.

      And, if the dairy boom worries you (it should), there’s only one way to stop it, and that’s to create counterbalancing economic options, such as sorting sheep and beef out, and above all else, making manufacturing viable in this country again.

      • vto 2.1.1

        All of those matters come in underneath our overriding political structure which is of course democracy. Your suggestion of the ends (and I dispute some of your suggestions that they are “better”, they are not) justifying the means is exactly in accordance with the entire point of NRT’s post, which is brutal dictatorship.

        Or looking at your points in another way Peter – I look forward to seeing the same means applied to achieve whatever ends people, either individually or nationally, want in the future. I might just go and steal the neighbours potatoes. Or a Green government might just rip out all DOC concessions from our National Parks. Take your biggest greedy desire and get stuck in. Fuck all due process, it is of no importance. Your suggetsion is the slipperiest slope going.

        And let us not forget that this is solely about money and greed. Nothing else.

        • Peter

          I don’t like what happened, but the situation had been building for some time, (10 years plus), and something was bound to happen, due to the deadlock. Yes, you could have made a theoretical argument that “keeping democracy” (i.e, a Council of two diametrically opposed camps) was mandated simply because it was democratically elected, and thus unchallengeable, but this isn’t the way local government in New Zealand works. Local government has no authority unto itself, it only has those powers bestowed on it by central government (the opposite applies in Australia). Central government rarely steps over the wishes of locally elected members, but it can, and does, in exceptional circumstances. The abolishment of the provinces is the classic, as are the local government reforms of the late 1980s. Both were arguably far more undemocratic than what has happened in Canterbury.

          Canterbury was one of those exceptional circumstances just begging for Wellington to intervene, and I do actually blame inaction by the previous (Labour administration) for letting it get to the point where National was able to do what it did. Far from tory-proofed. There were other ways through, had they been started earlier. But they weren’t, and we got the commissioners (who BTW, don’t support themselves staying on in their current model).

          I guess I’m also opposed to binary ontological arguments that assume that because Democracy has been removed, that all that follows is somehow bad. Anyone who has worked in local government will tell you that their decision processes are far from the democratic ideal, with a few appointed staff wielding most of the power, and with the populace so far from awareness that they can never hold people to account through the ballot box. The decisions might be technically correct and responsible, but it doesn’t make them democratic. So in either way, it’s a “dictatorship” of terms, either with rubber-stamping councillors, or with commissioners. Not too different really.

          Canterbury had its circuit breaker, and we’ve got a better framework for making resource decisions in place now. Now all we need is elections. So it wasn’t all bad.

          • vto

            I understand what you are saying but I do not accept it.

            A few quick points;

            1. There was no deadlock. There was a clear stop put on further irrigation. That is not a deadlock that is a decision. What you refer to as a deadlock was simply greedy farmers wanting a different decision.

            2. If the ends justify the means then great, let me at it. What is good for the goose is good for the gander. Fuck the system.

            3. As far as I’m concerned the Canterbury Plains are stuffed. It is simply the largest industrial park/wasteland in the country.

            • Peter

              There wasn’t really. The Paerora river was allocated to at least 110% of its resources, during that time on Council. Intriguingly, this was against the wishes of some of the local farmers, who wanted to see the thing flow…

              Until we’ve got something else earning as good and as reliable foreign exchange as agriculture, we are going to struggle politically to do anything that runs counter to that. I’ve spent much of my working life facing those challenges, there’s things you can do, but there are things you can’t. Magnify that a thousand fold and you’ve got the situation that the Greens will face, post 2014. That decision may cause a large number of their supporters to get disillusioned, as it faces up to agriculture’s power, and the limits on theirs (and Parliament’s as well).

              So, you need a counterbalancing force/economic power base to trade off with agriculture if we want to make headway on any of these issues in a meaningful way.

              • Draco T Bastard

                Until we’ve got something else earning as good and as reliable foreign exchange as agriculture,

                If we developed our economy we wouldn’t need foreign exchange.

                • vto

                  Agreed DTB. This myth that so many people, especially the rural community, seem to believe in is such patent balderdash it surprises me they have enough braincells in their heads to know which way to open a gate.

                  The idea that the only way for NZ to increase its wealth is by taking it from other countries is bizarre. I wonder if they have ever wondered how Planet Earth achieved its current wealth without taking it from other planets like Mars or Venus. ……

                • Peter

                  For most things we wouldn’t, no. Hence, me stating the need to build up manufacturing again…

              • tracey

                any discussions you know of around farming that land according to its soil type and climate? IE different crops/animals than dairy cows????

                • Peter

                  Heaps and heaps. I’ve even developed a tool that allows for that – http://www.yourland.co.nz.

                  But at issue is a culture that insists that the land can be bent and broken to your will, and made to do whatever you want, rather than farming according to the land. Rising input costs for traditional farms will help this, but it’ll also take some producer board style long term planning to make other forms of farming economic and desirable.

          • vto

            Heavy-arsed gangs put pressure on communities too Peter.

            By your reckoning we should turn a blind eye to their criminal activities and work with them instead.

            National Party = Mongrel Mob

            • Peter

              Last time I checked, farming, and in most cases, their level of polluting, isn’t a criminal activity. This is changing though, under many democratically elected councils that didn’t get into the same deadlock that Canterbury found itself in.

              • vto

                Bainimarama hasn’t done anything criminal either funnily enough. You miss the point.

              • Don't worry be happy

                This week 7,000 plus dairy cows will be loaded on a ship in Timaru and sent to China. Last time you looked Peter, say at the Animal Welfare Act , is that kind of animal torture legal?

                • Peter

                  I wasn’t talking about transport of animals, I was talking about the level of polluting on farms, from run-off. Traditionally, farming has been considered as a permitted activity, and the law has struggled to get around this. It’s starting to now, finally, with a multitude of approaches. I don’t know which combination of them will prove to be the best.

                  As for the transport of animals, completely separate issue, and yes, I agree. It’s morally wrong to put those animals on a ship to China. I also think it’s economic suicide to keep selling off our farming tech so cheaply as well, or I’d just recommend the usual way people handle animal genetics without live transfer – frozen semen. Law needs to be changed there.

              • tracey

                what do you mean? How many farmers willfully polluting would you consider a “criminal activity”? That it isn’t in the crimes act, is that what you mean? i agree with you about councils and the few wielding ridiculous power unfairly…

                • Peter

                  What I mean is that the test for criminal activity on a farm, by way of pollution, requires enforcement action and Environment Court prosecution, under tests set in either a District or Regional Plan. In many cases, those tests are high, probably too high, and it can be very hard to get a prosecution due to the complexity of the issues.

      • fatty 2.1.2

        And, if the dairy boom worries you (it should), there’s only one way to stop it, and that’s to create counterbalancing economic options, such as sorting sheep and beef out, and above all else, making manufacturing viable in this country again.

        What an unfortunate statement…do you apply TINA to everything, even filling our rivers and fresh water reserves with cow shit?

        • Peter

          I must have slain some sacred cows today. Maybe not Holsten-Friesan crosses. No I don’t apply TINA to everything. I prefer the far more attractive Tara.

          But, the realities of things on the ground, and I see them in my day job, is that the forces behind irrigation development and dairying are large, and the money stacks up. So either you are going to have to counter that with a stack of political support, both in local authorities and central government, with a law change or new framework that effectively says no to any new water in certain areas. And then you are going to have to spend a substantial degree of political capital fighting to maintain that law regime, and having industry undermine you at each and every turn.

          You can choose that option, and you need those who fight for it (which is partially what I specialise in actually), but ultimately the forces behind the problem are not going to abate until you sort out the economic structure of the country.

          • vto

            The force you talk of Peter is the force of greed. I don’t think you should give it any legitimacy.

            • Peter

              Of course it’s the force of greed. It’s the force of money from a hungry world in a nation steeped in producing vast quantities of agricultural produce.

              Ignoring greed, or stonewalling it (short of guaranteed political support to stonewall it) won’t stop it. You’ll just get ECan style deadlock somewhere else.

              What you need are alternatives that remove the focus on agriculture, or bring money back into other more sustainable types of farming. All are achievable, but none will happen simply by banging on at the dairy industry all the time.

              • vto

                to be or not to be Peter, that is the question. You have clearly made an answer.

                • Peter

                  Monday must be the day of binaries…

                  • vto

                    The greed for milling native forests was stopped.

                    What’s the difference here?

                    methinks you are probably too close to the daily workings to see the big picture which is the subject of the post.

                    • Peter

                      Yeah, after most of the Central North island was turned into farmland, and then back into exotic forest.

                      On the West Coast, yeah, the last few big podocarp forests got saved, in part because of huge political pressure, and again, because of marginal economics. The two aligned quite nicely, although the latter gets forgotten. Also, without the forest, the land underneath is of little use.

                      Agriculture on high class soils and massively modified landscape is another matter entirely.

                    • vto

                      “Yeah, after most of the Central North island was turned into farmland, and then back into exotic forest. ”

                      Most of NZ has been turned into farmland. You argue against yourself.

                      “On the West Coast, yeah, the last few big podocarp forests got saved, in part because of huge political pressure, and again, because of marginal economics.”

                      Was not marginal economics actually. Don’t believe the hype. And anyways, how much does the price of butterfat have to drop before the dairy sector collapses under the weight of this this-time-its-different boom? You know it aint much.

                      “Also, without the forest, the land underneath is of little use.”

                      What happenned to Canterbury’s soil when the forest was stripped away? It ended up in the Pacific. Is it going to happen again now that all the hedgerows have removed so the irrigators can swing?

                      “Agriculture on high class soils and massively modified landscape is another matter entirely.”.

                      All that has been previously modified is the removel of the vegetation. You will be aware how quickly that can be replaced.

                      As I said before Peter, all of your points here centre around the ends justifying the means, and that is the justification of every dictator there has ever been. Don’t complain when this process is used again for some other purpose.

      • MrSmith 2.1.3

        “And, if the dairy boom worries you (it should), there’s only one way to stop it, and that’s to create counterbalancing economic options, such as sorting sheep and beef out, and above all else, making manufacturing viable in this country again.”

        Peter you sound like a National party apologist. Basically what your saying here is the only way to stop the dairy boom is to some how manufacture a sheep, beef and manufacturing boom.

        So what would that involve Peter? How about the government opening up DOC land for farming or allowing child slave labour in factories, maybe a few labour camps for all prisoners, unemployed, solo mothers.

        At the moment all thats going on is National are stealing our water and handing it over to their farmer mates because a democratically elected council wouldn’t.

        • Peter

          That same democratically elected council allocated catchments beyond 100% of their water too, well before its councillors got their pink slips. Down in Otago we are still dealing with the effects of last time that happened, in the 1860s with mining rights…

          Anyway, I didn’t say manufacture a sheep and beef boom. Booms aren’t really good for anyone nor the environment, except perhaps the banks. I said get some long term price guarantees back into that part of farming. Same with strong wool actually. I doubt anyone would disagree with me.

          And for those who don’t understand, what that means, largely, is that there will be money in dryland farming, without relying on sucking up rivers or aquifers, or damming mountain valleys for water storage. I would have assumed that was a “good thing”.

          As for manufacturing, it’s quite simple, we sort out our monetary policy, get the dollar down to an acceptable level, bring in a financial transactions tax to stop NZ being used as a tax haven, and probably, some form of export incentives. After all, that is traditionally how NZ operated, and we did quite well under that regime.

          • MrSmith

            “That same democratically elected council allocated catchments beyond 100% of their water too, well before its councillors got their pink slips. Down in Otago we are still dealing with the effects of last time that happened, in the 1860s with mining rights…”

            Here you go again apologizing for the current behavior because the last lot supposedly did it to, the difference being of-course the last lot were democratically elected unlike the current puppets.

            The rest of your ideas are sound, just stop apologizing for the current state of affairs please or maybe you are happy to see it continue because you’re getting plenty of consultancy work out of it?

            • Peter

              Not apologising at all, it’s all shocking. What I’m pointing out is that we’ve got an operative Regional Plan in place in Canterbury now, whereas previously, there wasn’t one.

              I’m also trying to point out, contrary to the popular opinion here, that the previous regime was far from rosy, either on the democracy or on its decisions.

              • vto

                First paragraph – is it an operative plan approved by the populace who lives in the region? Again, Bainimarama and all other dictatorships make the same claims Peter. Ends and means again.

                Second paragraph – it was only not rosy from the perspective of one tiny greedy minority who wanted more money.

                • McFlock

                  At least the rivers run on time… 🙂

                • Peter

                  It’s never been an operative plan approved by the populace. 🙂 It formerly used to be an operative plan approved by the 20% or so of people who bothered to participate in regional council elections, which invariably, was the rural part of the electorate, along with a bevy of councillors. So, much the same to be honest.

                • vto

                  You’re dancing on the head of a pin Peter. You know the point I am making.

                  Following your reasoning there we may as well do away with all democracy eh. Same result, or even better in your books.. What;s the point?

                  Further additional – if only 20% participate in Regional Council elections and they are mostly rural then what the fuck was the problem in Canterbury? Seems the previous “regime” was approved by them according to you.

                  This it the fact: Famers were not getting their own way utilising normal democratic and business processes that have been developed over the centuries and generally accepted as pretty much worlds best practice and which those farmers have relied on themselves over the decades, so what do they do? They get their people to trash those normal democratic and business processes and simply steal what they want.

                  They are dirty thieves Peter, nothing more. They deserve nothing but scorn and spittle.

                  • Colonial Viper

                    Farmers have more political and economic influence in NZ than most other sectors. That was a fact of NZ life 60 years ago, and it’s a fact of NZ life now.

                    You want to change that? Then someone should propose measures to take away their over-sized political and economic influence.

                    I’m especially interested if anyone can suggest a democratic way to do that. My bet is, no you can’t.

                    • vto

                      So does the military in Fiji CV. I don’t understand the relevance of that fact to this situation.

                      But to have a crack – Canterbury had in place an electoral system and region whereby that agricultural power was not getting its own way. It didn’t like it so it brought out the guns.

                      Just because they win does not mean they are right or that their methods are justified or that the spittle shouldn’t gob them in the eye.

                    • Colonial Viper

                      vto, stonewalling a powerful constituency and lobby group while leaving them their full influence intact is only an adequate short term tactic and not a sustainable strategy. Sooner or later they will find a way to undermine whatever safeguards and regulations have been set in place. They have the political and economic firepower to do this. As this example shows.

                      So I ask again, what do you want NZ to do to reduce the concentration of economic influence and political power in the dairy sector?

                    • vto

                      I appreciate that reality CV. Most of my points concern the right or wrong of such realities, not the reality of the reality. As I said, the Fijian military also holds that same influence but that means diddly squat to a quality long term society. Sure, they exist but they are still fuckers who must be resisted. Alternative – lay down and submit to the most powerful interests in the land.

                      What does one do about it? Vote Them Out of course.

                      But seriously? I don’t know, but they have shat all over our system and stolen the resources. I don;t like it and many others don’t as well. That begins to form its own constituency with its own power base too.

                      But sheesh, who on earth has ever been able to stand up to the greed and lust of Man? Not many. It is one of the reasons so many fear for the future of our planet and the reasons for many societies collapse. It is a sad and sorry approach to our lives and our childrens future. Sad sad farmers.

                      It comes down to this CV, as I said before to Peter, … to be or not to be that is the question… (thanks Shakespeare)

                      is it not?

                  • Peter

                    “You’re dancing on the head of a pin Peter. You know the point I am making.”

                    I sort of have to on this one. I know people have a democratic ideal in their heads, and I know the reality of “democratic” decision making, especially at a local level on resource management decisions. Those processes won’t meet most people’s ideals, but put those same people in a similar situation, and you’ll find them engaging in all the same behaviours.

                    Hence, my lack of time for idealism on resource management issues. I’d prefer to look at bad environmental trends and put systems in place to address them and turn them around, “democratic” or not. I’d naturally prefer democracy, if that’s what is on offer, but this time around in Canterbury, another more powerful democracy (central government) decided it wasn’t on the menu.

                    “Famers were not getting their own way utilising normal democratic and business processes that have been developed over the centuries and generally accepted as pretty much worlds best practice and which those farmers have relied on themselves over the decades, so what do they do?”

                    Not entirely. The systems available under the RMA weren’t tested in an environment of real scarcity, such as what occurred in Canterbury. There’s a naive free market liberalism through much of that law that will not help New Zealand as we increasingly hit up against those limits. Yeah, the farmers gamed it, and largely won, which is usual political history for them, and the response from the rest of NZ was largely, yawn. Sure a few people fought hard, Central South Island Fish and Game, Forest and Bird, EDS etc, but it wasn’t enough. It won’t be the last time we face a pitched battle on scarcity either, and the next time one occurs, the environmental movement better prepare itself better.

                    “They are dirty thieves Peter, nothing more. They deserve nothing but scorn and spittle.”

                    Well, others have said that too, and it’s true in the case of a few I’ve had the misfortune to come across. I wouldn’t apply it generally though. General rules of thumb wind up with your thumb bruised.

                    • vto

                      Ends and means Peter. I think we have completely different approaches to the way our NZ world works. I prefer to get the big picture right and work backwards to the specific issue of the day. For you, it appears to be the other way around. Fundamental difference and I suggest that your process is one which carries the greater risk of disaster and failure for society in the long term.

                      Better some small scale mistakes from time to time as a result of larger processes than large scale disasters from bodgy or no processes.

                      Time for tea.

              • One Tāne Huna

                …previously, there wasn’t one.

                “Smith’s repeated assertions do not make them true. Even his appointed ECan commissioner, [Peter] Skelton, has rebutted them, saying in mid-2011 that the `widespread misunderstanding’ that there wasn’t a water plan was incorrect,”

                Sir Kerry Burke, democratically elected ECAN member, ex chair.

                • vto

                  Yep, that is exactly right OTH.

                  Siry Kerry Burke has labelled them lies and liars (in diplomatic terms).
                  Judge Skelton has labelled them lies and liars.
                  I think even Caygill has labelled them lies and liars.
                  The current commissioners don’t want anymore of this and while not labelling them lies and liars they say the same thing in even more diplomatic terms.

                  I mean, we have these highly regarded people (hard to get more highly regarded) calling Smith & co blatant liars, yet it seems to fall on deaf ears. When I raise this in various circles, because people do not follow the detail, it is I who gets the beady eye. Such is politics I guess. What a horrid world.

      • bad12 2.1.4

        Gosh, thank you Generalismo for that, now ‘just how’ do you make manufacturing in New Zealand viable in our little country???…

        • Peter

          This is the Standard mate 🙂 Plenty of suggestions. Not saying you’ll listen, but there’s no shortage of ideas around here about making manufacturing work here. It still does…

  3. One Tāne Huna 3

    The criminal endeavour comes up for ministerial review next year. They will now have a hard time pretending that “the same rural-urban balance of power” is not a factor in their decision.

    Which surely leaves whatever decision is made (short of a restoration of law and order) open to judicial review.

    There must be a better way to prevent political parties from fronting criminal behaviour like this.

    Complete transparency of political donations would be a start.

  4. Dr Terry 4

    I would suspect that Peter is indeed a National Party apologist if only because he must always have the last word. I hope his actions live up to all that stream of fancy vernacular. I always thought New Zealand was a Democracy without qualification, either it is or it isn’t, there can be no half measures. In any true democracy, “the ends justifying the means” is of dubious political morality (as is the justification of “greed”). What is “democracy”, then? “Government by the people or their elected representatives”; “the practice or spirit of social equality”; “social condition of classlessness or equality”. But here we have Peter suggesting, as though this is desirable, a “transition back to full democracy”. Democracy to be democracy leaves no room for “transitions” of any kind. Here we see democracy being compromised. When democracy is removed, that in and of itself is “bad”, Peter, never mind any other consequences.
    What Canterbury now has Peter terms “the new regime” – what an interesting selection of a word! Regimes might get improved outcomes, but that does not necessarily make them desirable (my dictionary makes particular reference to “fascist regime” – no doubt that one did a certain amount of good, when you look closely!). Peter graciously refers to National’s “rather draconian measure” (“rather?” Either it is or it is not, such qualifications are unacceptable to a real Democracy) to remove (“remove”!) the Councillors entirely”. He even resorts to the hackneyed old argument that “Labour is to blame” – revealing his desperation to dig up a solid argument.
    I cannot be bothered going on with this, just let me conclude by wearily citing Peter again, “It’s an issue of ecological limits” – but “New Zealanders just don’t understand them” (as does the condescending Peter, of course).
    Oh, I fear that I am wasting time and energy on this.

    • Colonial Viper 4.1

      I always thought New Zealand was a Democracy without qualification, either it is or it isn’t, there can be no half measures.

      Of course there can be half measures and compromise, that’s the real world we live in. NZ is, and never has been an ideal democracy. There are plenty of qualifiers which apply. Let’s not suddenly get idealistic and amnesiac all in one go.

    • Galeandra 4.2

      ‘Oh, I fear that I am wasting time and energy on this.’

      It’s a vexing issue and Peter’s discussion has been illuminating and good-humoured, despite the malice of some who disagreed with him.

      I think we need a better understanding of what we expect of ‘democracy’ as it is played out at the macro and the micro level, nationally and locally. Certainly there are significant areas where most of us take things on trust with regard to elected representatives and are largely unaware of the work of the ‘mandarins’ who make many of the real decisions far from the public eye. Trust is properly part of many social exchanges, and there are a range of sanctions that should be imposed when it is breached.
      In many of the arguments in this thread I detect a degree of absolutism, akin to deeply held religious faith, or political fundementalism. ” There are no half measures.” I am reminded of my old father’s vociferous insistence that he had pedestrian right of way even as huge trucks bore down on him. Sometimes, fortunately, compromise was unavoidable.

      All that talk of spitting makes me sick.

      • Peter 4.2.1

        Yeah, good points. The issue you speak of is a key one in planning, and it concerns the ability of elected councillors to make and/or understand highly technical topics, when they themselves don’t either have the time nor the interest to understand them. In many cases, it’s a vague strategic direction at best, and a rubber-stamping at worse. There’s a lot of crossover, and somewhere in that messy process decisions are made by almost enough people to give them legitimacy. You’ll notice that for instance, in resource management, that we don’t place much faith in local councils to make the right decision, so we allow for appeals. Therefore, most of the final decisions are not made by local authorities or their representatives. Hell, the Environment Court can directly override local authorities if it chooses, without their consent (and when it does on the side of the environment, we tend to cheer it, as with the recent Mackenzie landscape decision..).

        It’s one of the little understood features of planning/RMA law in NZ that submissions and comment processes don’t exist to provide for democracy – they aren’t votes or vetoes. They exist solely on the off-chance that they might improve the information flow to the decision makers. This feature of our law has been in place for close to 50 years.

        What is means is that the technical decision, reviewable by technical experts, tends to carry the day, and not that of lay opinion.

  5. Peter 5

    Ah sigh. What I find is interesting, always is, in these debates is how if you say something that that majority don’t agree with, or provide another perspective on a common theme, or an idea that people think is sacred, the personal attacks come out. Whilst I disagree with the tone and views of a number here, can you point to any place where I’ve started attacking people personally? Didn’t think so. But you get that, as I like saying.

    “National Party Apologist”. Indeed. I’ll leave the final assessment of that to the people that know me. I’ve voted Labour my whole life.

    I never suggested that a “transition back to full democracy is desirable”. I’d have ECan back in 2014 as a fully elected council, if it was up to me. The Environment Canterbury commissioners were those who suggested a transition, 50% elected, 50% appointed. They were overruled by David Carter, Gerry Brownlee, and others. Even the “dictators” as you kindly call a group of rather respected and able individuals, wanted ECan to return to being fully elected. That was what I was quoting.

    For the record, it is bad that the ECan councillors were removed. I have never suggested otherwise. They will be back, and the situation isn’t without precedent in NZ history either. What I am resisting, to some flak, is the idea that the Commissioners have not done any good – they have, and that somehow the old deadlocked council was perfect, just because it was elected.

    I’ve also singled out Labour here, and rightly so, it allowed the deadlock in Canterbury to occur, and ignored at least one official plea for legal ability (i.e a change to the RMA) to solve the intractable issues with running a first-come-first served consenting regime on over-allocated rivers in Canterbury. Labour did intervene once, to its credit, by getting a planning system in place for the Lower Waitaki River. Apart from that, it was left to its devices when it needed support. Had that support come when requested, and new approaches tried, the Council may have very well stayed.

    • vto 5.1

      Again, there was no deadlock. There was a group of farmers and businessmen unhappy they weren’t getting their own way. That is not a deadlock.

      edit: don’t sweat the personal here Peter. I cop it all the time. Goes with the territory. It is good to have someone to debate this with because no bloody farmers ever seem to stand up and debate this. They just grunt and curse and walk off like spoiled brats

      • Peter 5.1.1

        Yeah fair enough. I just compare it with the situation at the Otago Regional Council, whereby a bunch of fairly decent (and a couple of crappy ones) minimum flows have gone through, along with a new plan to deal with off farm water quality has largely gone through without the heat that these same issues had in Canterbury. That will be tougher than most rules in Canterbury, even under their new plan. The same in Manawatu, although that was far more pitched with parts still in Court, but the Council still remains, and will be elected again this October.

        The difference appears to be diversity in the farming community, and diversity in the many different communities. In Canterbury, you had urban and rural, and when the provincial towns and their district councils sided with the rural, ECan could not survive. With different leadership and different strategies, I think ECan could have got through on a democratic model.

      • rosy 5.1.2

        I’ve gotta say I really appreciate this discussion between Peter and vto. I’m with vto on the dictatorial demolition of democracy in Canterbury, but understand a bit more about the issues Peter has outlined.

        Although Labour may have been at fault for not involving itself in ECan issues, doesn’t the outcome of the Lower Waitaki River intervention show there was a way forward without removing a democratically elected body? There’s no excuse for what National did here, despite the fact that the commissioners may have done a good job. The council may have been able to do a good job as well, with the right support and without suspending democracy in the region.

        For the record, I think the ecological limits have been exceeded with the large number of dairy conversions in Canterbury. Dairying has no place in much on Canterbury and turning the country into a mono-agricultural factory farm does the country no good either.

        Yes, there needs to be a better and more diverse economy but part of the path to that is telling the over-exploiters of the environment ‘no, find something else’. The ECan situation isn’t a filler until a better balanced economy is achieved, it actively works against that happening. You can’t have the government suspending democracy and shoving money into irrigation schemes to support one group of capitalists and telling other capitalists that the market will provide the lead to prosperity. It’s unbalanced (boom and bust thinking) as well as unethical.

        • Peter

          Well, the Lower Waitaki River intervention required a law change through parliament to set up a special committee to effectively write a regional water plan for that part of the river. The situation across the rest of the region at that time was that ECan did not have an operative regional plan for the whole region, only a provisional one.

          Therefore, you would have had to intervene across the whole region, which is basically what happened…

          There are a few aspects to carrying capacity. Dry Canterbury soils can largely cope with the physical requirements of large scale dairying, in a way that say, wet soils in South Otago or Southland struggle. Not to mention flat land. Of course, the real issues remain water and waste. If you want healthy rivers, healthy fisheries, then you either have to say no to dairying (which is close to impossible under current systems), or push for storage. At the moment, it’s a bit of both. None of these solve the waste issue though – the eutrophied dead zones off the coast, the rising nitrate levels in the aquifers under Canterbury itself, not to mention the falling aquifer pressure in some places leading to saltation (sea water flowing back into a freshwater aquifer).

          I would support telling the exploiters to bugger off and find something else, although I must add that I have seen dairy conversions that have resulted in large scale *improvements* in water quality from their previous sheep and beef operations. It isn’t always a one way street.

          But, I go back to what Colonial Viper stated – “So I ask again, what do you want NZ to do to reduce the concentration of economic influence and political power in the dairy sector?”

          I’m keen to hear what your ideas are on this, and not just ideas, also the reality of trying to implement them.

          • vto

            Peter, been thinking about that question since yesterday. Rural interests have an influence that is out of proportion to their population but, I guess, in proportion to their economy. However, urban interests, or rather, longer term environmental interests, also have an influence and I would suggest that that influence would trump the rural over time. They have a greater population. They also have an economy at least as great as rural. The rural influence I think stems from its historic gerrymandered influence which is of course signifcantly less today. That influence is waning.

            The way that may manifest itself is in a similar manner to that which you outlined previously, namely the greater democractic process of national politics and elections rather than local. A government will be elected which has a mandate to turn this direction around – elected by that non-rural interest group. Evidence of this can be seen in the rise of the greens. It can also be seen in the last election result where the centre-right block in fact scored less than the centre-left block. This trend has accelerated since that last election.

            Evidence for ths is also seen in the gold rush that has been water applications and mining applications. It is as if those who operate in those spheres see this government as a last chance to grab resources before the turning tide drags away any further hope for grabbing resources. Get in now – Key and co. are the last hope for this old style.

            And a little further – this particular issue you raise ties in with neoliberal policies and this is on the way out. My 2c says that this current government will be the last of its type for quite some time. The tide has turned and is on the retreat. Remember that conservatives are always the last to accept and embrace changes to reality.

            • Peter

              Oh absolutely. I’ve seen it at work in a number of contexts, with farmers who once had influence now realising that they’ve lost their predominance to other interests. Many are also realising that their primary interest group, Federated Farmers, no longer represents them or their interests. Interestingly, I’ve seen some very progressive dairy farmers saying this – they want the laggards out of the industry and fast.

              A case in point is the Mackenzie, where I spent 18 months debating these issues with various interests. What was once pure high country farming dominance is now well split between farming (it will always be important), tourism, and electricity generation. Same applies all over. It led to a bit of anger and sadness as the farmers worked that out, and I don’t blame them for those emotions.

              I would be hopeful that the nastier edge of rural interests is waning, but I also look at the environmental and economic costs of running and sustaining jobs in cities. We can’t sustain those on current levels without some form of intensive agriculture or irrigation. So, unless we undertake a massive investment in post-oil infrastructure for New Zealand, it may just be that rural interests keep our lights on, and that will come with veto powers…

              Unless NZ develops an alternative infrastructure to cope with peaking resources, and does so fast, we are going to be back in farmer control quite quickly me thinks.

              I also wouldn’t portray the Greens as a solely urban movement. My partner is in the dairy industry, and staunchly votes Green. There are many others I know as well… The essence of the word conservative is “to conserve”. I’d say that the problem with the National Party on environmental matters is that it has far too many of the neoliberal type, compared with the more traditional conservatives it once had.

              In my career in conservation, I have found that urban environmental liberals are quite happy to write you a submission moaning about something, but far less likely to get their hands dirty doing something. Instead, they’ll leave it to someone else, generally an expensive professional who may no longer exist. So, I’ll give a nod to the farmers, hunters, fisherman, etc, who despite massive differences in political opinion with someone like me, will go out there and do environmentally good things. They don’t get anywhere near enough credit.

          • rosy

            Thanks for the reply Peter
            – I can’t see that add extra resources to develop the Lower Waitaki Plan is the same as sacking a council and refusing citizens the right to vote. Why couldn’t a similar process to the Lower Waitaki be used for ECan as a whole? Do you have any info about what happened, why it happened and the outcome? I’m quite interested to see the similarities and differences with the ECan situation.

            – Carrying capacity is moot when keeping water clean is impossible.

            – I don’t have any answers – yet – on reducing the concentration of economic influence in the dairy sector… I’m learning, which is why I found this discussion so interesting. Just that diversity is better than monoculture, especially when the water and feed resources (NZ is already importing shiploads of feed for cows) are insufficient for the needs of the industry. the whole agriculture/horticulture sector needs to be heard by government and then the government needs to provide fair, sustainable development direction. This is barely being talked about, it’s all just bulldoze through schemes to suit dairy conversions in Canterbury (and reduce environmental monitoring – cutting funding for environmental concerns will do that – seems to me there’s a bit of if they don’t know what’s happening, it can be ignored).

            I think the comments below this one, especially re Kerry Burke’s opinion, are also illuminating.

  6. vto 6

    Sir Kerry Burke, Chairman of Ecan before the thieves took over has a piece in The Press this morning (can’t find online) wherein he lays out the lies and deception of rural District Council Mayors and Nick Smith, Wyatt Creech and all other duplicitous bastards of this government.

    There is absolutely no doubt this has been an outright theft.

    Farmers abhor thieves, yet they themselves thieve in this instance.

    Scorn and spittle (suck it up galeandra, this aint no cup of tea). May they rot in a pile of cow shit.

    • MrSmith 6.1

      The link your looking for vto.


      No doubt Peter will have some more apologizes.

      • vto 6.1.1

        Thanks MrSmith. Readers should read this as it outlines how the theft took place. How our democracy was stripped away by the hands of our very own neighbours for their own self-enrichment. Taking from one and giving to thyself.

      • Peter 6.1.2

        Apologising? Or context-setting? Anyway, doesn’t matter.

        There’s one comment that’s interesting in Burke’s piece.

        ‘”Red Zones” were where water was already fully allocated but the Environment Court and/or Hearing Panels still gave away water in those zones against ECan’s wishes.’

        Against ECan’s wishes? You mean against staff wishes? Hearing panels are made up of elected councillors, they are ECan, their wishes (whether right or wrong), are ECan.

        • MrSmith

          Still nit picking I see Peter.

          The, “they did it too argument” is the one we used in primary school, it doesn’t or shouldn’t hold any water!

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