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Environment Canterbury has been governed by seven commissioners since a review of the elected body in 2010 showed the council was not performing.
The legislation governing their terms states that these end at the local government elections in 2013. However, the Government has decided to extend the commission until 2016, with a Ministerial review planned for 2014.
The announcement is available on the Beehive website (7 September 2012).
See the Regulatory Impact Statement (Environment Canterbury governance arrangements).
See the relevant Cabinet papers (released 5 October 2012)
Environment Canterbury - Questions and Answers
Why such strong interest in local government in Canterbury?
Canterbury is of national economic significance and has huge economic growth potential. Crucial to this is the efficient management of Canterbury’s water – the Canterbury region has 70 per cent of New Zealand’s fresh water resource, and 34 per cent of New Zealand’s hydro generation capacity.
In 2010, following an extended period of poor performance, the Government replaced the Environment Canterbury councillors with Commissioners. Divisions had impaired the effectiveness of planning and decision-making, and the local community had lost confidence in its elected representatives.
The Government saw it as crucial that effective governance arrangements were put in place to ensure that the Canterbury region fulfilled its economic potential.
Why continue with a commissioner model rather than an elected council?
Governance challenges continue to exist in Canterbury and require the continuation of an innovative approach to regional governance.
In addition, the disruptions caused by four separate earthquake events have made the Canterbury situation unique. The level of disruption was not envisioned when the original legislation was passed.
Rebuilding Christchurch and the wider Canterbury economy after the earthquakes has brought into sharper focus the need for a competent and consistent approach to planning for vital infrastructure for the future.
The Canterbury rebuild and the effective management of water resources are vital to the long term interests of the region, and of New Zealand
Is this a vote of confidence in the Commissioners?
The current leadership has been highly successful and effective.
The continuation of effective governance of Canterbury’s natural resources is a matter of both regional and national significance.
Is this level of government involvement in local government appropriate?
It is appropriate that the Government assists councils where a failure has happened.
Not acting could have had serious consequences for the future of Canterbury. The situation in Canterbury requires the continuation of an innovative solution which provides robust, effective and stable governance.
How long will you continue with commissioners?
The proposed Bill extends the model until 2016 and requires a Ministerial review to commence by March 2014.
What will this cost?
Commissioners will be paid from council revenue, as is now the case.
It is important to remember the Commissioners have already realised efficiencies and cost savings, for example through reduced litigation and streamlined resource consent processing.
Environment Canterbury, not the Government, will remain responsible for rates setting and the provision of cost effective services.
Will this mean all the current Commissioners will remain?
There will be an appointment process in October 2013 when the current Commissioners’ terms expire. Any appointment decisions will follow the Government’s appointments process and will use the criteria in the existing legislation.
Cabinet Papers on Environment Canterbury Governance These papers relate to the decisions above. They were publicly released on 5 October 2012:
- Environment Canterbury Governance Arrangements: Proposal (.pdf) 902k
- Environment Canterbury: Governance Arrangements - Further information on Option Three (.pdf) 386k
- Environment Canterbury (Temporary Commissioners and Improved Water Management ) Amendment Bill: Approval for introduction (.pdf) 429k