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Burns: Better Rules, Not Less Democracy, Best Way Forward For Canterbury Water

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Brendon Burns
Brendon Burns

Canterbury water management would be better served by enforcing tougher, new environmental requirements than by passing responsibility to a new tier of un-elected local government, says Labour's water spokesman Brendon Burns.

The Government today released a review of Environment Canterbury's performance chaired by former National Minister Wyatt Creech. The review recommends establishing and appointing a Canterbury Regional Water Authority.

Brendon Burns says the report correctly identifies the pressure Ecan has been under to manage the goldrush for water that has occurred in Canterbury in the past decade, leading to it having the slowest resource consent approvals.

"What is not fully acknowledged is that Ecan has begun to come to grips with those demands after years of giving away huge volumes of water without proper consideration and allowing major deterioration in surface water quality. The Ecan-lead Canterbury Water Management Strategy is a template for potential win-win environmental and economic outcomes.

"I am the last to defend how Ecan councillors have performed --- the Auditor-General last year upheld my complaint against four of them who were conflicted in voting against part-charging farmers for the costs of water management.

"But at least those councillors are accountable. This report suggests appointing Regional Water Authority members, funded by ratepayers to manage Ecan's water functions, and leaving Ecan with most of the rest of its responsibilities. We have already seen the Government undermine local representation in Auckland; we don't want the same in Canterbury."

Brendon Burns says the Government should use its time considering the Creech report to develop clear national policy statements on water and give the new Environment Protection Authority some real powers to enforce water standards, with tough penalties for those who pollute or over-abstract.

"This would assist Ecan and other councils which face increasing demand on water resources from intensive agriculture and other users, without a suite of sufficient powers to hold them to account for breaches of water quality."

The Christchurch Central MP says he does see merit in reviewing Ecan's role in public transport, given most of this activity falls within the Christchurch City Council's boundaries.

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