Posts Tagged ‘Environment Canterbury (ECan)’

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.

Baynons Brake a Welcome New Recreational Facility

2 October 2013

130921 Baynons Brake Riding Trails (300x225)Baynons Brake is a series of horse riding trails that have been established by Environment Canterbury Regional Council on the northern Waimakariri river banks in the Clarkville area.

They are part of the Waimakariri River Park and have tidied up and given purpose to an area that had been misused in the past by hoons in 4-wheel drives and the like.

Space has been put side for parking horse floats and fencing has been put in.

The area includes the stopbank in places and signposted trails that give riders a variety of choices in the area between the stopbank and the river.

The facility was recently opened (in the rain!) despite the fact that the recent storm had done a lot of damage.

Well done to David Owen and the crew at ECan!

The New Ashley River-Rakahuri Regional Park is Great!

17 October 2012

Congratulations to ECan and their staff for inaugurating the new Ashley River-Rakahuri Regional Park.

It is early days, but there is now a new mountain-bike track, beyond the Mike Keen Walkway established some years ago by the Ashley-Rakahuri Rivercare Group. The best place to start them both is over the stopbank from the Ashley Picnic Area in Millton Avenue, Rangiora.

The photo shows the first group of “official” cyclists leaving after ECan Commissioner Rex Williams had cut the ribbon.

I have to confess that the picture of me with a bike in today’s Northern Outlook was a bit of a pose – it’s been a couple of years since I actually got on one!

Another Thought About ECan

9 September 2012

I’ve just tweeted a summarised version of this:

Question: Is the real reason for the delaying of the ECan elections that the Government has an agenda for all Canterbury local goverment but can’t implement it in 2013 because of the earthquakes?

ECan Commissioners to Remain in the Meantime: Some Thoughts

7 September 2012

The Government has announced today that Environment Canterbury, the Regional Council, will continue to be governed by commissioners until 2016, with a review on its future to be conducted in 2014.

One of the reasons for the delay in reaching final decisions has been given as the effect of the Canterbury earthquakes.

I have to agree with that.  Councils in the Greater Christchurch area (Christchurch, Waimakariri, Selwyn and ECan) do not need the distraction of a governance debate while our focus has to be on earthquake recovery.  My direct experience of the 1989 reorganisation was that a lot of time and energy was sucked up in the process. While the future governance of ECan would not necessarily affect the three territorial authorities, public speculation and debate on amalgamations, etc. had already started and would have intensified.  No thanks – we in Waimakariri have much more important work to do in the meantime.

The matter of having unelected commisisoners governing ECan will certainly raise some hackles – I have already received a tweet about it!  In the longer term, it is my view that a Council dealing with regional environmental and development issues and with regional resources, and responsible for regional regulation, should be answerable to the regional electorate. In the interim, however, I have been impressed with the performance of the Commissioners. Dame Margaret Bazley and her team have worked closely with the 10 territorial councils in the Region and have engaged very well with the community.  In other words, they have behaved as good elected  councillors should.

An important focus has been the implementation of the Canterbury Water Management Strategy. In our case the Waimakariri Zone Committee has worked very well, consulted our community on a number of occasions and has set a clear way forward through its Zone Implementation Programme. Commissioner Rex Williams has played a full part in this Committee.

Looking to the future, a key issue for the Region is the fact that the majority of its population lives in Christchurch which therefore holds the electoral power but the most significant work lies, and has greater impact, in the rural areas. The greater part of ECan’s income probably comes from the city, but individually rural ratepayers would, on average, pay higher ECan rates than their city counterparts.

The distribution of representation is therefore an issue. In the end we have to remember that we are all Cantabrians and our urban areas (which are not just in Christchurch, of course) and our rural areas are interdependent.

Local Government Reform in Canterbury: My Position

3 October 2010

Having already been on the Local Government scene for six years when the 1989 restructuring took place, I know how difficult the process can be.  The successive amalgamations of Rangiora Borough and Rangiora District, then the new District with Eyre County, and then that new Rangiora District with Kaiapoi Borough, Oxford County and part of Hurunui County to form Waimakariri were all done differently.  Even in the space of three years, history didn’t repeat itself!

The replacement of the Canterbury Regional Council (ECan) with commissioners suggests that Canterbury is in for another shake-up.  I doubt that ECan will return in its former guise.  I am prepared to work constructively with the Government, the commissioners and neighbouring councils to review the future functions of territorial councils like Waimakariri.  It could well be that district councils will take on some of ECan’s current functions.

We need to make sure, however, that this works to the advantage of ratepayers and residents.

I do not believe that anything would be gained by amalgamations unless there was widespread public support – nor do I think that such moves are likely from the Government.

Subsidies for Clean Heat Conversions

12 August 2010

You may have read that Environment Canterbury has reduced the funding for subsidising clean heat conversions in this financial year.

That is true, but it applies only to Christchurch.  The funding made available for Kaiapoi and Rangiora has more than doubled.

Air Pollution – Kaiapoi and Rangiora Not Looking Too Good

2 August 2010

High pollution nights – from the ECan website

Location Pollution Level Yesterday No. of High Pollution Nights Highest Pollution Level 2nd Highest Pollution Level
Rangiora 7 10 91 84
Kaiapoi 8 23 98 95
Christchurch – St Albans* 8 12 90 72
Christchurch – Burnside** -1 6 62 59
Christchurch – Woolston 19 13 100 92
Ashburton 9 10 79 77
Timaru – Anzac Park* 33 44 148 124
Timaru – Washdyke 18 4 56 55
Waimate 22 8 97 69
Geraldine 8 3 58 57

How’s Our Air This Winter?

7 July 2010

High pollution nights – so far this winter

All monitored areas are included so that Kaiapoi and Rangiora can be compared with the rest of Canterbury.  You can check daily at on the ECan website.

Location Pollution Level Yesterday No. of High Pollution Nights Highest Pollution Level 2nd Highest Pollution Level
Rangiora 63 6 91 63
Kaiapoi 51 15 98 80
Christchurch – St Albans* 25 6 72 71
Christchurch – Burnside** -1 1 62 49
Christchurch – Woolston 28 5 100 71
Ashburton 49 4 64 64
Timaru – Anzac Park* 60 28 148 124
Timaru – Washdyke 26 3 56 54
Waimate 39 5 97 69
Geraldine 48 2 58 57

Will the Government “Do An Auckland” On Us?

29 June 2010

It is fairly clear that there will be changes in the Canterbury Local Government scene by 2013, if only because it is unlikely that Environment Canterbury will return in its previous form.

But there are differences between us and Auckland.  The problem in Auckland has been the failure of the councils to co-operate sufficiently to address city-wide issues.

In the Greater Christchurch area, the Christchurch, Waimakariri and Selwyn Councils have been co-operating, notably in the greater Christchurch Urban Developement Strategy (UDS) – and have been joined in this by ECan and the NZ Transport Agency (formerly Transit NZ).

One result of this has been the fast-tracking of major roading projects because the region already had its joint planning in place.  The Christchurch Southern Motorway is already under construction.

A re-designation of ECan’s functions could result in the amalgamation of district/city councils, but my guess is that this is unlikely.  Furthermore, the requirement of the Local Government Commission to consider community of interest as the main criterion for determining district boundaries could lead them down the track of splitting districts in two.  I suspect that would be a step which the government would be unwilling to take.

With regard to any amalgamation between Christchurch and Waimakariri, we need to remember that the Waimakariri River is a very strong boundary from a local government point of view. There is only one piece of shared infrastructure – the old road bridge – and all other infrastructure is totally separate.

ECan and Our Rates

5 April 2010

 According to the poll published in The Press, opinion in Canterbury was fairly divided on whether the Government had done the right thing in sacking the Canterbury Regional Councillors – with slightly more opposed than in favour of the Government’s move.

One thing that has struck me and others, though, is that I think that this will be the first time that I have been taxed (or rated) by a non-elected body.

The Americans fought a revolution over that.

ECan, Commissioners and Water

31 March 2010

It’s no surprise, but the Government has decided to replace the Canterbury Regional Councillors with commissioners.  The necessary legislation has already gone through Parliament, under urgency.

It remains to be seen what this means in practice for the huge amount of under-the-radar work ECan actually does – like the meeting of the Ashley-Sefton Rating District Committee meeting that I attended – held recently in a Sefton farmer’s driveway!  Cr Ross Little was there – would a commissioner have come? 

A lot of locals are excited about the idea of a proposed Ashley River-Rakahuri Regional Park, modelled on that under development in the Waimakariri River.  It will require public consultation.  We would have expected ECan councillors to be involved in that.  I hope we find a commissioner who is interested.

Likewise, I’ve heard that some people in Oxford would like a bus service – not, despite appearances, an easy matter, given the way District Council rates are going up in Oxford this year.  More consultation – but carried out by whom?

All Councils, including ECan, make representations to the government from time-to-time on behalf of their ratepayers and constituents.  Who will be the commisioners’ constituents?

The above are only a sample.

I accept fully that water is the Number One issue for Canterbury as a region, but the government’s move leaves a lot of unanswered questions.  We can only wait.

ECan: Ministers Meet the Waimakariri Council

17 March 2010

Environment Minister Nick Smith (raised in Waimakariri!) is doing the rounds of the Canterbury Councils and this morning he came to Waimakariri, joined by Local Government Minister Rodney Hide (also raised here) and locally-based Labour and Conservation Minister Kate Wilkinson.

They have come to hear the Canterbury Councils’  views (as distinct from the Mayors’) on Environment Canterbury.  There was an exchange of views on ECan’s performance over a long period of time and the short-term measures that could be taken.  We also discussed the long-term: how this process could lead to a deeper reassessment of the Local Government structure in Canterbury.  Hopefully, if this takes place, it will involve all of Canterbury’s people. 

Nick Smith made it clear that where they talk about a separate water authority (my words), they are not just talking about the allocation of water.  They are talking about everything to do with water: flood protection, the river environments, water quality, the sharing of the resource, etc.  This is actually a significant part of ECan’s current work.

We need to remember that ECan does a lot of other stuff too: air quality, urban passenger transport regulation, coast care, civil defence, etc etc – quite a long list.

ECan and the Local Councils

1 March 2010

The recently released report on ECan says:

Territorial authorities (TA’s) within the Canterbury Region unquestionably believe that Environment Canterbury has failed to effectively and efficiently manage freshwater. TA’s view this as institutional failure.

I don’t know how the report can say this.  I have never been asked for my views on this and nor, to my knowedge, has the rest of the Waimakariri District Council.

I wonder how many of the mayors who have spoken behind closed doors on these matters can say they are speaking for their councils.

Last Saturday’s Press said that some of the mayors may be looking beyond a Regional Council and turning the District and City councils into unitary authorities (combining district and regional functions).

I think you, the people, should be given some say on this.

Rangiora Exceeds the Air Pollution Threshold for the First Time This Winter

5 August 2009

Last Sunday night brought Rangiora its first air pollution exceedence of the winter.

The deadline for not polluting the air is next winter (2010) although ECan say they will not prosecute until winter 2011. Note that you don’t have to get rid of your open fire or non-complying burner – just that you are not allowed to use it.  If you avail yourself of one of the financial assistance packages, you do have to disable your non-complying fireplace or burner.

The only exception is for homes listed in the Waimakariri District Plan as heritage buildings.  If that seems unfair, remebre those people have, in other respects, rules applying to their properties that do not apply to the rest of us.

Location Pollution Level Yesterday No. of High Pollution Nights Highest Pollution Level 2nd Highest Pollution Level
Rangiora 11 1 53 50
Kaiapoi 18 21 86 80
Christchurch – St Albans* 11 12 86 83
Christchurch – Burnside 11 7 107 72
Christchurch – Woolston 21 15 88 88
Ashburton 16 4 64 60
Timaru – Anzac Park* 31 25 135 98
Timaru – Washdyke 18 1 55 50
Waimate 27 5 67 62
Geraldine 22 4 59 57

Latest ECan Pollution Report (13 July)

13 July 2009

High pollution nights for 2009

Location Pollution Level Yesterday No. of High Pollution Nights Highest Pollution Level 2nd Highest Pollution Level
Rangiora 19 0 50 49
Kaiapoi 21 13 86 78
Christchurch – St Albans* 15 8 86 83
Christchurch – Burnside -1 5 107 72
Christchurch – Woolston 7 14 88 88
Ashburton 9 3 64 57
Timaru – Anzac Park* 16 15 93 93
Timaru – Washdyke 7 1 55 50
Waimate 10 3 67 62
Geraldine 14 3 59 56


Latest Air Pollution Figures from ECan (8 July)

8 July 2009
Location Pollution Level Yesterday No. of High Pollution Nights Highest Pollution Level 2nd Highest Pollution Level
Rangiora 32 0 49 48
Kaiapoi 39 11 86 78
Christchurch – St Albans* 37 7 86 83
Christchurch – Burnside 51 5 107 72
Christchurch – Woolston 26 13 88 88
Ashburton 17 3 64 57
Timaru – Anzac Park* 50 12 93 93
Timaru – Washdyke 17 1 55 50
Waimate 25 3 67 62
Geraldine 27 3 59 56

Does the Auckland Situation have any Relevence to Canterbury / Christchurch / Waimakariri?

15 June 2009

The Government (the Labour-led Government, remember?) decided to do something about Auckland because years of squabbling amongst the four cities (Auckland, Manukau, North Shore and Waitakere) and the Regional Council had resulted in paralysis.  That, for instance,  is why the whole country is now paying fogesr their failure to plan properly for transport.

Now, as we all know, they are looking at a super-city that is also bringing in three adjacent Districts – Rodney in the north and Franklin and Papakura to the south.

Is this situation paralleled in Canterbury?

The Auckland Regional Council covers only the above cities and districts.  In a sense, the Government (now National-led!) is abolishing the cities and districts and beefing up the regional council.

The Canterbury Regional Council (Environment Canterbury) stretches well beyond Christchurch, however.  It covers the whole area east of the Main Divide from north of Kaikoura to south of the Waitaki River and is the biggest Region in the country by area.  It is quite a different beast to its Auckland equivalent.

And what about Christchurch?  Well, it already has one council, covering urban Christchurch, some of its rural fringe and all of Banks Peninsula.

And do we squabble?  Well, it is no secret that some councils like to have a go at ECan sometimes, but I would have to say, from a Waimakariri councillor’s perspective, that the cooperation far out weighs the irritation.  One good example is the Greater Christchurch Urban Development Strategy, which is the product of cooperation between ECan, Christchurch City, Waimakariri, Selwyn and the NZ Transport Agency.

So is change in the wind for Canterbury’s local government structure?  Who knows?  My view is that the Government has got its hands full dealing with Auckland in the immediate future, so we might be waiting some time.

ECan’s Air Pollution Records – As of 10 June 09

11 June 2009
Location Pollution Level Yesterday No. of High Pollution Nights Highest Pollution Level 2nd Highest Pollution Level
Rangiora 29 0 48 48
Kaiapoi 39 6 86 68
Christchurch – St Albans* 24 3 83 75
Christchurch – Burnside -1 3 107 61
Christchurch – Woolston 35 6 88 88
Ashburton 12 1 55 43
Timaru – Anzac Park* 88 4 93 88
Timaru – Washdyke 42 1 55 49
Waimate 55 1 55 43
Geraldine 46 1 59 47

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