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No Ecan election until 2016 as commissioners' term extended

No Ecan election until 2016 to keep flow of water management

By Paul McBeth

Sept. 7 (BusinessDesk) - Cantabrians will go another election without voting for their regional council after the government extended the rule of commissioners it installed to oversee water management in a region recovering from last year's earthquakes.

Local Government Minister David Carter and Environment Minister Amy Adams will today table a bill in Parliament to extend commissioner governance of Environment Canterbury until the 2016 election, they said in a statement. Existing legislation empowering their appointment was to end at next year's local body elections, and the ministers have decided to keep the current arrangement.

"The commissioners, under the leadership of Dame Margaret Bazley, have proved highly effective in addressing urgent problems with water management in Canterbury and in rebuilding key stakeholder relationships," Carter said. "The disruption caused by the earthquakes has made the Canterbury situation unique, and the focus must now be on ensuring the region can maximise its full economic potential as Christchurch rebuilds."

The commissioners were appointed in 2010 after a review slammed the regional council for mismanaging the province's fresh water demand for two decades in a region where much of the water is over-allocated amid growing irrigation, hydro-electric and water storage demands.

At the time, the commissioners' appointment got backing from the Ministry for the Environment in its regulatory impact statement, which said there were "strong arguments for legislative amendment in this case" even though it risked alienating Cantabrians who might have seen it as “removing the democratic rights of Canterbury without consultation.”

Canterbury accounts for about 70 percent of New Zealand's fresh water resource and a third of the country's hydro-generation capacity.

Central government will hold an appointment process in October next year when the existing commissioners' terms expire, and will conduct a ministerial review of the governance arrangement in 2014.

Adams said Canterbury's freshwater resources need effective management and governance.

"We intend to retain the limited appeal rights on decisions made by Environment Canterbury on plans and policy statements relating to freshwater management," she said.


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