The Press reports:
Environment Canterbury councillors have been given their marching orders by the Government and will be replaced by up to seven commissioners, possibly as soon as the start of May.
Government troubleshooter Dame Margaret Bazley has been appointed chairwoman of the commisioners, and the search is on for the remaining commission members.
ECan staff are being briefed on the sacking of the 14 elected councillors now, at the same time as Environment Minister Nick Smith and Local Government Minister Rodney Hide officially released their announcement.
For those who think this is all partisan politics, I would point out the ECan Chair who was just sacked is a former National MP.
The Review Group acknowledges the significance of water and the complexities it brings to ECan in its management role. However, the Group was struck by the ‘gap’ between ‘what needs to be done’ to appropriately manage water and ‘ECan’s capability to do so’. The Review Group membership included some of New Zealand’s most experienced assessors of organisational capability. In their experience they had not previously seen a gap between capability and requirement matching this particular situation. In their view, the extent of the gap between the capability of ECan and what is required for it to adequately manage freshwater issues is enormous and unprecedented.
ECan was not just performing bit below par. The capability gap was foudn to be “enormous and unprecedented”.
And this is not as simple as Wellington interfering. It is the elected local authority Mayors who called on the Government to intervene – something they had been calling for, for some years.
From time to time the Government has to appoint Commissioners, because a body is so dysfunctional. This happens to quite a few schools, has happened to a DHB, and in this case is happening to a Regional Council.
The choice of Dame Margaret is a shrewd one. She is 110% non-partisan, and has a excellent track record of sorting out dysfunctional systems.
The Government has said elections for ECan will be held by 2013 at the latest. This is the normal three year date. Obviously no elections later this year, but possibly in 2011 or 2012 if the problems get sorted out quickly.
The big challenge is to get a water plan in place – this is around 18 years overdue! Then water allocations will not be ad hoc.
The Q+A put out is very good. Especially the groups that called for change, which includes LGNZ, Ngai Tahu, Irrigation NZ, EDS, and the Mayors of Chch, Ashburton, Waitaki, Timaru, Mackenzie and Waimate.
My only criticism is putting the law change through under urgency. I see no reason it could not have a few weeks of submissions. However on the other hand, locals have had the chance to have input into both the review team, and to respond to the recommendations.