National ministers justify suspension of democracy at Ecan
“The important work of water management cannot be rushed,” Local Government Minister David Carter says.
He was justifying the refusal of the National government to return Environment Canterbury to democratically elected representation after removing councillors and appointing commissioners in 2010.
“We must build on the momentum the commissioners have achieved,” Environment Minister Amy Adams says.
The pair were quizzed by media today when they announced the news and claimed it had widespread support.
They were accompanied by commissioners Dame Margaret Bazley and former Labour MP David Caygill.
Mr Caygill highlighted the faster clearance rate for resource consent processing under the commissioners.
When asked about the volume of consents being processed, he was unaware of the numbers but admitted there were considerably fewer than when the commissioners were appointed.
The commissioners have also placed a moratorium on water consent applications in the Hurunui catchment and mid-Canterbury.
The Canterbury earthquakes were another delay reason advanced by Mr Carter and Ms Adams.
When queried about what specifically had been delayed by the earthquakes, Mr Caygill said appointments to two water management zone committees had been delayed.
One journalist raised a regional plan in Manawatu which was adopted this week, asking whether Environment Canterbury under its commissioners would be any quicker than the five years taken over the Horizons regional council’s One Plan.
Mr Caygill said the One Plan might yet face a final court appeal.
Ms Adams and Mr Caygill highlighted how the legislation empowering the Environment Canterbury commissioners allows limited rights of appeal over district plans, speeding up the process.
Dame Bazley made a brief statement saying how it had been “a joy” to work with staff at Environment Canterbury.
In response to a question, Mr Carter denied the government planned similar moves against Christchurch City Council, whose functions have already been largely subsumed with the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority.
One group delighted with the reappointment of commissioners is Federated Farmers, which “applauds” the decision.
“Right now, the Canterbury Land and Water Regional Plan is proceeding at breakneck speed because of the time limit on the commissioners. I honestly don’t think anyone wishes them to act in haste so that we can repent at leisure,” Federated Farmers mid-Canterbury provincial president Chris Allen says.