Archive for January, 2014

The Future of ECan

7 January 2014

On New Year’s Day there was an article in The Press on the future of Environment Canterbury, currently governed by Government-appointed commissioners.  I was quoted with a couple of lines from an interview that went for about ten minutes.

I strongly support a return to a fully-elected Canterbury Regional Council (ECan) but it seems to me that a mixture of elected (the majority) and appointed ECan members could be a way to go for the 2016 elections before getting back to a fully elected body in 2019.  I haven’t been a member of Amnesty International for 35 years to not believe in democratic rights.

People need to realise that of the current Canterbury mayors, only one (Kelvin Coe of Selwyn) was a mayor at the time the commissioners were put into Ecan in 2010.  There is now a very different group of people in place.

One problem that ECan has always had to deal with is that the major part of their work (water and land)  actually happens in rural areas and affects farmers in particular.  Individually, farmers pay substantial rates to ECan, although the total rates paid into Ecan mainly come from the urban area of Christchurch – it’s just that Christchurch has so many ratepayers, each paying a relatively small amount.  That also means that the voting power lies with Christchurch. In my observation, most of the opposition to the insertion of commissioners came from urban voters, because of the loss of democracy, and most of the support came from rural voters, because they felt that they had been having little say in how their rates were being spent.

I think the model of the Water Zone Committees, which are community committees jointly appointed by ECan and the relevant District councils (we have just one in Waimakariri, covering the whole District) has possibilities for the future.  These bring together farming, environmental and recreational interests and so far they are working well. If that model works, the greater voting power of urban Christchurch shouldn’t be an issue.

Minister Adams came to the last Canterbury Mayoral Forum and didn’t indicate any Government preferences.  It is entirely possible that the Government does not yet have a view, because she came to ask questions, not to tell us anything.  What is different from 2010, is that I will be doing my level best to make this discussion a public one that all Canterbury people have access to.

Despite what was said in the same article, I don’t detect a desire on the part of the mayors to do away with ECan.  Christchurch has long argued that they want to be a unitary authority, but I haven’t heard Lianne express a view herself.  Some of the other councils are arguably big enough to be unitary authorities (Waimakariri, Selwyn, Timaru, Ashburton) but others (Kaikoura, Hurunui, Mackenzie, Waimate, Waitaki) are probably not.  Talking about unitary authorities thus leads to a discussion about amalgamations, which I don’t think many in Canterbury want.  I certainly don’t.  There is the other problem that water is Canterbury’s big issue but the main rivers (Waimakariri, Rakaia, Rangitata, Waitaki) are all, for good community-of-interest reasons, District boundaries. Unitary authorities based on current boundaries would have trouble dealing with the rivers consistently.

One significant ECan function that could be dealt with at a District/City level is public transport.  Timaru is stand-alone anyway, and our main concern with the Christchurch system would be to make sure that Waimakariri and Selwyn have a proper say.

The issues are therefore Canterbury issues, not just Christchurch or even “Greater” Christchurch.

Advertisements

The Waimakariri District: Looking Forward to 2014

6 January 2014

For those who missed it, the following appeared in this week’s Northern Outlook. 

2014 should see progress in a number of areas over which residents have expressed frustration in 2013.

The future of the District’s residential red zones has been an issue since their announcement in June 2011. They are now in a very sorry state with their empty sections and abandoned houses – not a great environment for those still living there and nearby. The government and CERA now indicate they are willing to think about these zones’ future and they have agreed that the community and the Council will be involved in determining that future. I expect to see real progress this year along with developments on the Kaiapoi riverbank.

The Kaiapoi and Rangiora town centres have a lot ahead of them. I expect to see owners making decisions for the Rangiora rebuild early in the year as they engage tenants. Work should be getting under way soon on one of the Kaiapoi gaps and during the year final property purchases should enable construction to start on the Red Lion corner realignment and at least the design work by new owners for the Hansens site in Kaiapoi.

At the time of writing, the three main controversial “in limbo” buildings had not had their futures announced by their owners. The John Rhind (former BNZ) building in Kaiapoi (empty since September 2010) and the Farmers and Robbie’s buildings (both empty since March 2012) will soon have those decisions and hopefully reconstruction under way. Work should start on the West Eyreton memorial arch in the second half of the year.

By the end of 2014, much of infrastructure work, mainly in Kaiapoi, but also in Pines-Kairaki , Rangiora, Waikuku and Cust, should be completed. The recent cost-sharing agreement with the government is certainly a help there.

The major projects already started or with contracts awarded will be either completed or nearing completion: the Kaiapoi Library, Museum and Service Centre, the Ashley Bridge and the Rangiora and Oxford Town Halls.

This community has been facing the biggest natural disaster in material terms in NZ history. We are now on the way out with the biggest works programme ever undertaken in North Canterbury.

 

 

Big Crowd at Waikuku Beach Sand Castle Competition

5 January 2014

140105 Waikuku Sand Castle Competion 2 (500x375)Today’s Waikuku Beach Sand Castle Competition drew a big crowd.  The judges (of whom I was one) had a difficult task. It was a wonderful hot day and a lot of people were enjoying themselves.

Well done to Waikuku Artists Incorporated (WAI) for organising this event.

WAI’s annual exhibition for local artists is coming next month – watch out for it!

140105 Waikuku Sand Castle Competion 5 (500x375)


%d bloggers like this: