Christchurch water referendum
Media Release: Rik Tindall, CommunityVoice.NZ
15 September, 2016
Christchurch and Canterbury residents will soon have their first say on regional governance for over six years. Limited local elections to Environment Canterbury will put seven councilors at the decision-making table from October 2016. These will be joined by up to six government appointees, some of them current commissioners, including two representing Ngai Tahu iwi.
Of foremost concern is water conservation for equitable and future use. With water-borne illness on the rise in the region and nationally, pressure is on to maintain accustomed water quality. This is affected by quantities of water allocated for a range of different purposes.
“The Canterbury Water Management Strategy is very much needed,” says Christchurch ECan candidate Rik Tindall. “It shows how fundamental democracy is to solving 'wicked' challenges like water – shares must be fairly negotiated and enforced, including for natural environment.”
“Everyone has a right, protected by health legislation, to safe and sufficient drinking water. Biodiversity - flora and fauna - must be considered too.”
The CWMS consults locally, through each river catchment Zone Committee, to write a Zone Implementation Plan for meeting all needs in each respective catchment.
“Democracy is essential for reaching the best outcomes, for optimisation at every level of the Canterbury Water Management Strategy,” Tindall says. “The public are very concerned that water standards have begun to slip, that environment is degraded, and it is not apparent that removal of democracy has been helping with these issues in Canterbury. Quite the opposite.”
As the only candidate this year to have served on the regional council before, Tindall's stand is to make the October poll a full referendum on the role of democracy for reaching good and lasting public decisions.
“A great myth was created, that the elected ECan council was dysfunctional, that it suffered from tied votes. There was just a single vote that fell 7:7 in all the council's 2007-2010 term, and even that was debatable on points of conflict of interest,” Tindall explains. “Government intervention was to tip the balance around public interest, for a council that was struggling with regulatory functions - unsuccessfully in their eyes.”
Government wanted quicker irrigation infrastructure development from Environment Canterbury in 2010, which has provided the yardstick for the council's performance since.
“Large water takes are now fully monitored, which Canterbury can thank Commissioners and Government for seeing through,” Tindall says. “But the public really want their voices heard on the full range of water concerns without delay. They have significant ideas for change too.”
“Democracy, to be effective, must be real, consultative and studiously applied.”