Democracy on backburner for Canterbury?
The future of Environment Canterbury will be revealed tomorrow.
Minister of local government David Carter and minister for the environment Amy Adams are scheduled to make the announcement in the morning.
But rather than returning the region to democracy, which many local leaders say is needed more than ever, political sources suggest National’s ministerial rule from Wellington will be extended.
A fallback position would be a mix of elected and appointed members to Ecan.
Councillors were sacked in 2010 under the then environment minister Nick Smith, who subsequently lost his post over the Bronwyn Pullar ACC affair.
Mr Smith had commissioned former National minister Wyatt Creech to write a report on the alleged shortcomings of Ecan over the slow resource consent processing of a surge in applications from farmers seeking water permits, much of it for dairying.
The Creech report specifically stated the council was not dysfunctional, although this description is frequently used by current ministers to justify the councillors’ removal.
Mr Smith went ahead, sacking elected councillors in April 2010 and appointing commissioners to advance water allocation.
One of NBR's Wellington sources says that she was aware a media statement had already been drafted.
Her information suggested that the government is leaning towards extending the term of the existing commissioners who replaced the sacked Ecan councillors.
She also says that another government announcement timed for tomorrow morning is designed to be a smokescreen to take attention away from the Ecan announcement.
The second media conference will announce the timetable of pending infrastructure works.
Sources within National say a super council like Auckland council is in the offing for Canterbury.
Lane Neave lawyer Duncan Webb says a super council would fit with National’s outlook.
“It’s about National’s view of business units and economies of scale. It goes across all organisations, whether it’s state-owned enterprises, universities or community groups.
“There’s a different approach. It’s more decision-making than community focused,” he says.
The same approach is evident in the ministerial veto over Christchurch city council affairs and the extraordinary powers of the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority to acquire land and dictate urban planning with minimal allowance for appeals.