Why ECan was sacked

A reader has brought to my attention this 2007 minute by ECan Independent Commissioners:

Last week Dr Jenkins the CEO of ECan issued a media statement expressing disappointment with the interim decision we have made on behalf of ECan as its independent commissioners. He also indicated that “ECan” (we assume he meant ECan management) did not agree with many of our conclusions. He then went on to detail specific areas where he suggests we are wrong.

The statement reflects Dr Jenkin’s earlier comments made before the hearing commenced, where he suggested that ECan (which, for the present purposes is us) would be declining all of these applications.

We are not surprised by Dr Jenkins disappointment, or that he differs with our conclusions. However, It should go without saying, that it is inappropriate for the Council to publicly criticise or debate specific aspects of the decision we have made on its behalf, let alone before we have completed the hearing and issued a final decision.

This is a prime example of how ECan was dysfunctional. It is almost beyond belief that the CEO would be undermining decisions made by the Council’s own independent commissioners. Bad enough he tried to pre-empt their decision, but even worse to claim to speak on behalf of ECan, when in fact the Commissioners were the ones with the governance role on this issue.

They go on:

Whilst we presume that this was not the intention, the statement may be interpreted as an attempt by management to try and influence the outcome of either this and/or future processes. It also puts us in an invidious position, when in essence, our judgement and competence is being questioned by the organisation who we are acting for. Such comments bring the independent hearing process into disrepute.

I note Dr Jenkins is still the CEO. I am surprised that the Council did not officially sanction him for undermining the independent hearing commissioners.

The Press also reports on what the other local authorities said about ECan:

Canterbury council leaders attacked Environment Canterbury (ECan) as “zealot-driven”, “vindictive and spiteful” and “operationally, a rudderless ship” in a review of the regional council’s performance. …

Timaru District Mayor Janie Annear told reviewers that ECan had a lack of knowledge beyond Christchurch and a lack of rural understanding.

“Some [regional] councillors have said `rural New Zealand are the sewers of New Zealand’,” she said.

I suspect they were not the councillors from the rural areas.

Annear claimed “there is not one area they are doing well in” and that ECan chief executive Bryan Jenkins was “starting to derail” the Canterbury Water Management Strategy (CWMS) and the “goodwill” built up in its development. She called for a “change of chief executive”, but said problems transcended “one CEO – the problems are systemic”.

An interesting comment, when viewed in tandem with the above minute.

Hurunui District Council chief executive Andrew Dalziel called ECan “zealot-driven at times” and said: “We’ve got to the point of making sure ECan investigators are accompanied by our staff.”

It sounds like the entire culture was awful.

Waimakariri District Council chief executive Jim Palmer said ECan was “vindictive and spiteful”, and Kaikoura District Council chief executive Stuart Grant said: “What do we want? ECan gone by lunchtime. This is a chance to gut the organisation. If water is staffed by ECan, it is doomed.”

Selwyn District Mayor Kelvin Coe said the regional council was “operationally, a rudderless ship” and “arrogant, combative, litigious”.

These complaints are not new. They were made to Labour also when in Government, but Labour wouldn’t act on them.

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