Council to conditionally support retention of commissioners

The Hurunui District Council has agreed to support the Environment Canterbury (Temporary Commissioners and Improved Water Management) Amendment Bill with a clear message for an election to be held in 2016 with elected members voted in (instead of commissioners).

At their Strategy and Policy meeting last Thursday, councillors agreed that their submission will have a statement about the importance of democracy and that local governance at all levels is vital to appropriately represent the community. They also want it made clear that their support for the bill is in the context of a unique set of circumstances that prevail at this time, particularly the need to continue the momentum with the Canterbury Water Management Strategy. To get rid of the commissioners at this point could put at risk the progress made collaboratively towards addressing Canterbury water issues, and it has taken years to get to the stage we are at now.

Mayor Winton Dalley said that a new unprecedented level of cooperation between Hurunui District Council and Environment Canterbury, at both commissioner, elected and staff levels is being developed, initially in the planning area but could potentially progress to other activities. “The benefits of this cooperation are entirely for our mutual constituents, and we would not like this progress put at risk.”

Mayor Winton Dalley said that whilst all Councillors were deeply concerned that the Bill completely sets aside democratic elections for an extended period, most councillors accepted that there is a need for effective leadership to enable the region to address its issues and to return to democracy, and that the current Commissioners had made significant progress in resolving systemic issues within Environment Canterbury and addressing urgent issues with water management in the region.

Mr Dalley reiterated that Hurunui District Council’s support of the Bill was however conditional upon the Government’s commitment to its promise to reinstate democracy in Canterbury in time for the 2016 local body elections.