Government continues to deny Cantabrians democracy

The Green Party will be strongly opposing the Government’s Environment Canterbury (Transitional Governance Arrangements) Bill, which is due to have its first reading in Parliament today.

“There is no justification for the Government to treat Cantabrians as second class citizens, denying them the right to elect a full regional council and the right to access the Environment Court,” said Eugenie Sage, the Green Party’s Canterbury spokesperson.

“There is no reason for having the Resource Management Act continue to apply differently in Canterbury than elsewhere in New Zealand.

“If the National Government was genuine in claiming that it just wants Canterbury to retain the institutional knowledge and specialist skills of the current Commissioners, it could allow Cantabrians to vote in a  fully elected regional council and enable it to use the former commissioners as non-voting consultants for a period following the 2016 local body elections.

“The Government’s real agenda is to ensure it has Environment Canterbury Regional Council under its thumb, promoting more irrigation, more intensive agriculture and more water pollution.

“If passed the Bill would see a “hybrid” model where seven councillors are be elected and Ministers appoint six members replacing the existing seven Ministerially appointed ECan commissioners installed by National in 2010.

“Canterbury has the largest geographic area of any region in New Zealand and is second only to Auckland in its regional population, yet Canterbury citizens will get to elect only seven councillors compared to 20 in Auckland and 13 in Greater Wellington.

“This is the second time the National Government has broken its promise and deferred the restoration of regional democracy in Canterbury.  The regulatory impact statement underlines that there is absolutely  no certainty that full regional democracy will ever be restored while National remains in power.

“None of the New Zealand’s other 77 local authorities have has this half pie model of democracy with half the members appointed by Ministers and the rest  elected. Cantabrians deserve the same democratic rights as other kiwis.

“The Green Party trusts Cantabrians to elect a competent regional council which can get on with the job of tackling the region’s water pollution issues and managing  water, soils, air, the coast, natural hazards and transport in a sustainable way.

“Democracy involves debate between different world views and elected councillors representing local people on the issues that matter.”