The Canterbury dictatorship bill

Written By: - Date published: 7:41 am, March 31st, 2010 - 38 comments
Categories: democracy under attack, democratic participation - Tags: , ,

Reproduced with permission from No Right Turn.

Is up here. The Regulatory Impact Statement is here. It makes for interesting reading. Just at the beginning:

There are significant risks associated with the Review Group’s recommendation to temporarily suspend planned triennial elections for regional councillors (scheduled for October 2010) and to transfer the functions and responsibilities of Environment Canterbury’s (ECan) elected councillors to government-appointed commissioners until elections in 2013 at the latest. Elections are a right and privilege of any citizen in New Zealand. The suspension of such a right should only be considered in exceptional circumstances. Such a decision is correct to sit with Parliament.

The Minister for the Environment intends to progress the proposed legislation under Urgency. This, alongside the proposal to limit appeal rights on decisions/recommendations made by commissioners on Canterbury’s Natural Resources Regional Plan and on water conservation orders in the region potentially alienates Canterbury rate payers and the general public from decisions made on natural resources in the Canterbury region. This raises equity and access to justice issues.

That’s a taste; there’s more further down. But MfE doesn’t exactly sound keen.

38 comments on “The Canterbury dictatorship bill”

  1. toad 1

    Almost 400,000 Cantabrians lose their democractic right to vote for an elected Regional Council until 2013, and Granny Herald (remember its banner front page headlines “Democracy Under Attack” against the Electoral Finance Act) doesn’t even bother to report it!

    • Draco T Bastard 1.1

      It’s fairly obvious that The Granny was never concerned about democracy. They were only concerned about getting their preferred anti-democratic government in place to bash beneficiaries and cut taxes to the wealthy.

    • lprent 1.2

      I’ve noticed this over the Auckland super-shitty as well. A notable lethargy on the part of the Herald editorial line, until it became totally obvious how much of a cock-up that Rodney Hides structure was.

      • BLiP 1.2.1

        Nah – the New Zealand Fox News Herald waited until its was fait accompli and then started its weak protestations. Wants to have its cake and eat it.

  2. Yes, but documents obtained by Radio New Zealand show that Ecan were seeking assistance and guidance from central government for the past four years. So what the hell was the Labour Govt doing all this time? Apparently nothing.

  3. Peter Johns 3

    Now, who booted out the Rodney Council in 2001?
    Not a novel act this, but possibility a necessary one.

    • Marty G 3.1

      tell me, PJ, did they cancel the 2001 election in Rodney too? Genuine question.

      • r0b 3.1.1

        No. From Joe Bloggs’ link below:

        “The Commission is not a replacement for local democracy,” she said. “It is a holding measure until fresh elections can be held by March next year.”

        “Government intervention in the affairs of a local authority is not something I or my colleagues take lightly,” said Ms Lee.

        “I have taken this decision reluctantly and only after careful consideration of the views of key stakeholders such as Local Government New Zealand, the Society of Local Government Managers, the Minister for the Environment, and the Controller and Auditor-General.”

        “These organisations were unanimous in their view that a Commission was required if the problems of the Rodney District Council were to be properly addressed.”

      • toad 3.1.2

        Actually, Marty, they advanced the 2001 election for Rodney District from October to March. Rodney voters got their chance to elect a new Council 11 months after the Council was sacked and 6 months before the next scheduled local elections nationwide.

        Canterbury voters are being denied under this Bill the opportunity to elect their representatives at the next local election. They will be governed regionally by Ministerially appointed Commissioners for a full three and a half years.

        Rather a large difference there, Peter Johns.

  4. Joe Bloggs 4

    Peter – good point – Labour Minister of Local Government Sandra Lee sacked the Rodney Council (in April 2000, incidentally, not 2001) – a Labour precedent for democracy under attack methinks

    http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PA0004/S00111.htm

    • Lee was an Alliance MP, Joe, not Labour.

    • lprent 4.2

      Perhaps you should avoid solely picking up your info from DPF. The cases are not even remotely similar. Only a dingbat would consider them to be similar.

      In 2000, the ‘sacking’ was at the request of the council itself as it considered itself as having a problem. The government reluctantly agreed. The first priority of the government was to establish a date for new elections 11 months later (with an intervening xmas break), and 6 months before the usual local body elections. They appointed a commissioner to fix up whatever they could and keep services running until those elections.

      Now lets see how well you can relate those actions to what Smith/Creech are proposing to impose on Canterbury. In particular, that they consider the the earliest date for elections is 2013 because Smith doesn’t ‘trust’ the results of elections if they were held this year.

  5. tsmithfield 5

    ECAN have been an absolute joke, and from what I have been able to tell, despised by most. I can tell you, that as a Canterbury resident, I doubt there will be many tears shed about ECAN getting a long overdue rogering.

    • Marty G 5.1

      “despised by most. I can tell you, that as a Canterbury resident, I doubt there will be many tears shed about ECAN getting a long overdue rogering.”

      heard of the democratic process? elections in half a year. why has your government canned those?

    • NickS 5.2

      Despised by most?

      Lolwut?

      Dairy farmers sure, but the majority of people in Canterbury? Methinks the fool doth lie.

  6. Peter Johns 6

    Maybe something as important as water supply should be left to people who know something about it, not people voted in who are clueless.

    • Bored 6.1

      Bloody hell , even for you PJ thats really Boring. So does that means we should be kept in the dark with our democratic assent not required? Defer to “experts”. Some people call that paternalism, others corporatist (not using the “f” word but read between the lines).

    • Armchair Critic 6.2

      I don’t think so. Something as important as water should be subject to the democratic process and not passed to the hands of the a privileged few, and their technocrats.
      It’s a travesty that control of water is to be confiscated in Auckland, and has just been confiscated in Auckland.

      • Armchair Critic 6.2.1

        Correction to the last sentence – should finish “…and has just been confiscated in Canterbury.”

    • NickS 6.3

      /facepalm

      Frak you’re an idiot, ECan’s decisions are founded on research into inputs into the Canterbury aquifers and surface water systems vs taking of water from these sources and ecological impacts therein, along with the impacts of agricultural and industrial activities. It’s the reason why ECan has strong research ties to the local universities, plus it’s own labs and monitoring people. What the councillors do is take that information and compare it against the need and requests of the people they represent and make a decision, and fundamentally the science is saying that there are major negative long term social, economic and environmental impacts associated with much of the proposed schemes for draining the local rivers for irrigation.

      And it’s this tendency for ECan’s councillors to go with the science that the Creech Report clearly criticised.

      Which indicates that you’re a complete f*cking idiot with the reading skills of a pre-schooler, because the councillors where taking advise from experts.

      Irony doubleplusgood.

      • grumpy 6.3.1

        Total crap NickS.

        While it may be true that ECAN had the scientific expertise in the past, successive irrational restructuring by ECAN now means that most of the expertyise lies in the private consulting companies set up by ex ECAN staff.

        That is why ECAN have lost on the science at every recent RMA hearing.

    • grumpy 7.1

      Come on NickS, comment on that!!!

      • NickS 7.1.1

        Some of us are very sleep deprived from a two day tramp that turned into a 3 day tramp + have to go to work soon.

        But one example as a indicator ECan is corrupt? Plus it’s in isolation, with no links to the background material concerning the expert opinions the independent commissioners and the CEO at the time disagreed over .

        There also seems to be a strong methodological divide between the two, with the CEO et al going with the precautionary principle, while the commissioners are more less watch and see, albeit recognising a significant hole in the knowledge base concerning spring flows and deep aquifers. Also, it’s from frakkin 2007, how about showing a more long term pattern of stuff ups by ECan on teh science vs the non-stuff ups in terms of actual references to the literature?

        • grumpy 7.1.1.1

          Oh, so that’s OK then. Try looking for yourself then (it’s all on ECAN’s website).

          Have you ever seem Commissioners having to issue such a memo. Although the memo is 2007, the issue is still ongoing with Jenkin’s subsequent actions proving that he always intended to ignore the commissioner’s findings (without appealing to the Environment Court) – now that’s corruption.

          • NickS 7.1.1.1.1

            Except of course that’s going to take time I don’t have, and given your making the claims of corruption the onus is on you to provide the evidence, so get archive digging kid, because I’ve got work and a debrief on the weekends tramping club screw up to deal with today.

  7. grumpy 8

    NickS said,

    “Which indicates that you’re a complete f*cking idiot with the reading skills of a pre-schooler, because the councillors where taking advise from experts. ”

    Really???

    • NickS 8.1

      Again, evidence please.

      Because the article you linked to only deals with Jerkins, who’s the CEO, and doesn’t deal with the ECan Councillors, nor with the ECan researchers.

  8. grumpy 9

    But the Commissioners question the impartiality of the ECAN researchers.

    Put this in central govt. context. How long would a dept. head last under these circumstances. Or the Board in letting him do it?

    • lprent 9.1

      An interesting issue. How would they know? Have they commissioned independent scientific reports examining the findings? I’d bet that they haven’t.

      Or are we just looking at wishful thinking by commissioners hoping for a different result than that given by the physical world?

      • grumpy 9.1.1

        Lprent, because you understand such things, this is how.

        http://ecan.govt.nz/news-and-notices/notices/HearingDecisions/hearing-decision-rakaia-selwyn-groundwater-minute-070907.pdf

        You will see the depth of knowledge outside of ECAN and the lack of any real evidence based understanding of Canterbury Groundwater.

        This also explains Adaptive Management

        • Armchair Critic 9.1.1.1

          There seems to be a whole lot more going on here than is revealed from the documents you have provided links to, grumpy. My observation, overall, is that they are more revealing for what they don’t say, rather than what is in them.
          I would expect that Commissioners would question the impartiality of the ECAN researchers. It is their job to assess the available evidence, form opinions and make recommendations based on their assessment.
          The link you provided to the document from the commissioners that provided comment on the CEO of ECAN was a gem. I expect it links to your comment about the hypothtical department head in a central government organisation. Personally, I think the fact that the commissioners thought it was appropriate to comment on the CEO in public puts them at the same level as the CEO, whose behaviour also seems to be less than exemplary. There is a prima facie case to discipline the CEO and to not reappoint the commissioners. However, I digress.
          The public spat between the CEO and some appointed commissioners is not necessarily good grounds to sack the Councillors. If the Councillors addressed the issue in 2007 there was no reason for a central government to intervene. And if the Councillors failed to satisfactorily address the issues in 2007, their constituents had the opportunity to vote the Councillors out in the local body elections in 2007. Again, no reason for central government to intervene.
          Not sure that commissioners on Resource Consent hearings can commission independent scientific reports, LP, I understood their role was to assess the evidence put before them by the parties applying for a Resource Consent and the council officer’s reports.
          grumpy, the document at the end of your link (from 070907), while interesting, is not that unusual. The conclusion that the modelling undertaken was not sufficiently robust to use without monitoring to support it was hardly a surprise, given that it appears that none of the models were properly calibrated for simulating flow through the aquacludes. The description of adaptive management is not particularly enlightening. And again, this doesn’t seem to provide much of a reason to sack all the Councillors.
          So, grumpy, ECAN were dysfunctional, but no more so than other local authorities I have experience with. And there is a huge step to having good reason to sack all the Councillors about six months out from an election, and not hold elections until 2013. Before you pursue further your line about how there is nothing wrong with what the government have done, I reckon the government had plenty of scope to act under the Local Government Act and using parliament time to legislate was a total waste of time, if the reason for the government legislating was to get better governance of the Canterbury region. Or alternatively, this is a bare-faced, anti-democratic grab for power and resources and is against the best interests of Canterbury and New Zealand.
          I don’t see a credible defence for the government’s actions.

          • grumpy 9.1.1.1.1

            Armchaircritic, I am not saying that these issues were even part of the reason ECAN got sacked. I am just putting them up as examples of how the place operated, it’s dysfunction and politicisation.

            • Armchair Critic 9.1.1.1.1.1

              Fair enough grumpy. Credit to you for showing up with some links, when challenged to do so.
              In my years of working with local government, my observation is that there is a relationship between the size of the organisation and its level of dysfunction. The most functional and representative local bodies I have worked with have been the smallest ones, and the big ones tend to be much more dysfunctional. Needless to say I don’t support the government’s plans for Auckland.
              Based on the documents you provided, I would say that ECAN is not any more dysfunctional or politicised than any of the similar local bodies I have worked with.
              I’m assuming you believe some form of government intervention was warranted. I am inclined to agree, but intervening through the legislation passed is, IMO, completely wrong and inappropriate.

            • RedLogix 9.1.1.1.1.2

              Cripes grumpy, ever worked anywhere that wasn’t politics and dysfunction?

              I’ve worked most of life (35yrs) mainly in the private sector, in small and large organisations, both locally owned and global corporates. And I’ve been in the public sector too. Although they have different cultures and modes of accountability, waste and dysfunction can be found in more or less equal measure in both.

              People are people regardless.

        • lprent 9.1.1.2

          Umm I got rather diverted about the time of your comment 😈

          I’ll have a look at this tomorrow (maybe). Took Thursday off work to work on the site. In my experience that usually means that I left time for people to get paranoid and add tasks to my work list.

  9. RobertM 10

    Nick Smith is pushing too fast on this issue. Its a joke to think Margaret Bazley is going to provide oversight or that the Smith’s comment that democracy was undesirable because it would probably stop the use of most of the available water for dairy conversions, is acceptable.The reality is the water resources of Canterbury should be saved to support a much larger human population in 20 years time. Australia with is shortage of water and competing agriculture and mining can not sustainably support 40 million population. Maybe we are the alternative. The Dairy led strategy of Grosser, Smith and Key is a short term answer to sustain living standards and the farmers. There must be alternatives like making Christchurch a 24/7 society maybe that requires different law and order policies and more selective approach by the police in Christchurch. Maybe they could apologise for the Ellis affair and the police and social workers involved resign. A new Christchurch will allow people to rock 24 hours, it will target the working class thugs not their victims and potential victims and break the power of the do gooders the Bagshaws, Hercuses and Andertons and the power of the havana like Medical School and ghastlies like Doug Sellman and all the doctors who want Cuban style medicine. let people choose and self medicate.

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