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Greens: Report An Attack On Democracy And Environment

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Greens: Report An Attack On Democracy And Environment

The findings of a review of the Canterbury Regional Council (Environment Canterbury or ECan) are an attack on democracy and could be disastrous for the Canterbury environment, the Green Party said today.

A panel reviewing ECan headed by former National Cabinet Minister Wyatt Creech released its report today. It recommends taking the crucial job of water management away from ECan and establishing a new Canterbury Regional Water Authority. It also recommends sacking the current ECan council and not replacing it until 2013.

"These recommendations are an attack on local democracy," Green Party Co-leader Russel Norman said.

"If implemented, the people of Canterbury would have no democratically-elected regional council to represent their interests. Key decisions about water management would be taken away from elected councillors and put in the hands of a new Government-appointed board.

"This could be abused by big dairy and commercial interests as an opportunity to ram through new irrigation projects without due process.

"It's true that ECan has been slow to process resource consent applications and has made some poor decisions about water management in the past. However, even the report acknowledges that they have recently improved in this regard. There can be no justification for such an extreme course of action at this time," Dr Norman said.

Dr Norman said an extremely concerning picture was starting to emerge in Canterbury.

"First, the Government appointed Creech, a director of Open Country Cheese, which has been successfully prosecuted and fined tens of thousands of dollars for contaminating farmland and rivers, to pass judgement on the organisation charged with stopping dirty dairying in Canterbury.

"Then John Key hinted cryptically in his opening speech to Parliament that the Government would 'remove particular regulatory roadblocks to water storage and irrigation in Canterbury'.

"Now this review recommends taking all water decision-making in Canterbury away from elected representatives. Putting the pieces together it starts to look like things are about to get easier for big irrigators in Canterbury, even though water resources in the region and stressed and overstretched as it is.

"If the Government cares about Canterbury's water resources, it should ensure that there is a moratorium on new water storage and irrigation projects in the region before any of these recommendations are implemented.

"I am drafting a private member's Bill that would put a moratorium on new water take consents in sensitive catchment areas, which would also help to protect Canterbury's stressed water resources," Dr Norman said.

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