ECan proposal insufficient to represent South Canterbury interest
Waimate District Council, along with Mackenzie and Waitaki District Councils, believes Environment Canterbury’s (ECan) proposal to have just one South Canterbury elected member is insufficient to represent the diversity of the region.
In a joint submission, the Southern Canterbury Councils (Timaru District Council will decide on 24 July if they will be a signatory to the joint submission) argue that the region requires two representatives, the same model that existed before commissioners were appointed.
Mayor Craig Rowley states that the Southern Canterbury Councils support the return to a fully elected governance structure and that there is no valid reason for changing the previous model.
“Prior to the appointment of commissioners in 2010, Environment Canterbury had a council of 14 elected members, two of which represented South Canterbury and a small portion of North Otago,” says Mayor Rowley.
“We don’t believe the proposal to have a total of 13 councillors, one of which would represent South Canterbury, is a fair representation.”
“Environment Canterbury is primarily responsible for the effective management of land and water, and these issues are extremely important in the predominantly rural configuration of South Canterbury.”
The submission argues that the proposed model of representation is predicated on a population-based model that does not fully take into account the unique diversity of the region. It goes on to argue that when it comes to management and allocation of freshwater and land use, the rural communities must have a say in the decision-making process and one representative for South Canterbury is not sufficient.
“There are strong divergent interests between metropolitan Christchurch and rural Canterbury. If the current proposal of having eight councillors for Christchurch and only five for Mid, North, and South Canterbury (with just one in South Canterbury) is adopted, we do not agree that this is fair representation, particularly when we know there are conflicting interests between the rural and urban communities.”
Have your say
Now's the time to tell ECan whether you agree or disagree with the current proposal. You can do it here.
Deadline is 4pm Monday 30 July 2018.
Democracy is a focus on the submission. What are the issues being highlighted?
The Southern Canterbury Councils believe that fair representation is paramount. The large and well represented metropolitan population vs the widespread and under-represented rural population as proposed by Environment Canterbury contradicts this. We argue there is more than sufficient reason for the exception to the rule of the population-based model to be disregarded.
Returning to the pre-Commissioner ‘14 Elected Representatives’ model is the only way to achieve a fair governance model across Canterbury. We believe the below statements on democracy need to be observed:
- Democracy provides representation with the constitution limiting the majority and protecting the minority
- Democracy is a system of processing conflicts in which outcomes depend on what participants do, but no single force controls what occurs and its outcomes
- Democracy is where all forces struggle repeatedly for the realization of their interests
- Democracy is relevant to interest, not only to population
What are the divergent interests?
For Environment Canterbury to reflect effective democratic representation it is imperative that its governance structure represents the strong divergent interests between metropolitan Christchurch and rural Canterbury.
The Southern Canterbury Councils submit that communities of interest centre on demographics and geography, and resources such as fresh water and its allocation.
While Environment Canterbury’s governing legislation is the Local Government Act 2002, resource management, and in particular freshwater and land use management, dominate its functions.
Under the proposed model the rural constituency achieves very limited representation within Environment Canterbury.
The Southern Canterbury Councils believe the proposed representation model presents a predicament where the rural communities, which have a substantial interest and concern with the management and allocation of freshwater and land use, are largely shut out from the decision-making.
It is strongly believed the two communities of interest (metropolitan and rural) cannot be achieved under a purely population driven governance model.
There are widely known differing and conflicting interests between rural/farming and metropolitan environments.
The presence of Environmental Canterbury’s operational team based in Timaru, and the Canterbury Water Management Zone Committees is not in any way a substitute for locally based democratically elected representation.
How is geography important?
The difficulty of one person being able to represent such a broad, diverse and geographically challenging area is under-estimated. Obtaining the balance of skills, expertise and knowledge of various areas in the region is important.
The total land area of Environment Canterbury is 45,332 square kilometres. The total land area of the South Canterbury Constituency (proposed) is 18,062 square kilometres, which is 39.84%, well over a third of the total Canterbury area.
The Southern Canterbury Councils believe 14 elected members would ensure representation across Canterbury better reflects the rural communities of interest in geographically large but sparsely populated areas, and ensures their resource management interests are effectively represented.
South Canterbury including part of Waitaki had been previously successfully represented by two Councillors before the Government Commissioners were appointed to govern Environment Canterbury. Therefore we believe this should be reinstated with the return to full democracy. We question the reason and need for any change/reduction in the pre-Commissioner representation. We also note that no other constituency is being asked to reduce representation.
We point out Environment Canterbury initially discussed member numbers below 12, being 11 to the minimum of 6. This reduction of representatives was discarded early as it presented significant challenges for maintaining fair and effective representation across the region. We suggest that this same thinking should be applied to determine the need for two South Canterbury representatives.