In a scathing submission Greenpeace has labelled ECan’s new proposal for representation in the 2019 elections as “anti-democratic” and “grossly unbalanced.”
In 2010 the National Government sacked democratically elected Councillors at the Canterbury Regional Council (ECan) and replaced them with Government appointed commissioners.
The commissioners are now being removed by the Labour-led government in time for 2019’s regional council elections.
In preparation, ECan has proposed a representation structure that sets out the number of Councillors to be elected by people living in different areas of Canterbury.
“ECan’s proposal for 2019 hugely over-represents rural voters and under-represents urban voters” says Greenpeace Campaigner Gen Toop.
“If ECan’s new plan goes ahead it would mean that the vote of a school teacher in Central Christchurch is worth 40% less than the vote of an irrigator in South Canterbury, ”
The proposal suggests that South Canterbury will have a councillor to voter ratio of 1:30,600 and North Canterbury 1:37,900
Meanwhile the ratio in Central Christchurch will be 1:51,650 and in North East Christchurch 1:50,200.
“The proposal is so skewed towards giving more power to voters in rural canterbury than to voters in Christchurch that it actually breaches what is allowed under the Local Electoral Act.”
The proposal breaks what is known as the +/- 10% rule in the Act in four out of the seven proposed wards. As a result it must be treated as an appeal to the Act and referred to the Local Government Commission.
Greenpeace’s submission includes a litany of environmental crimes that the group says have gone hand in hand with the removal of democracy at ECan.
“Under the anti-democratic rule of nationally appointed commissioners ECan has given its consent to ecologically devastating irrigation and dairy conversion proposals,” says Toop.
One of the examples given in Greenpeace’s submission is the consents granted without public notification by ECan for a mega-dairy farm just south of Lake Pukaki in the Mackenzie Basin.
Another example given is the revelation in 2016 that Canterbury irrigators were recorded taking hundreds of millions of litres of water above their entitlements. ECan issued few fines and there were no prosecutions. The vast majority were not punished at all.
“For the last eight years, without the consent of the people of Canterbury, ECan has relentlessly served the interests of the irrigation and dairy industries over the interests of clean, safe water and all those who rely on it,” says Toop.
”Canterbury is now in a freshwater crisis. A return to full and fair democracy at ECan is urgent and is a critical part of reigning in the dairy industry and cleaning up the region’s rivers.”
The council are taking appeals and objections to their proposal from the public until 5pm Friday the 28th September. These can be emailed to [email protected](External link) with the subject line Representation Review Appeals and Objections.
A unique and precious ecosystem under threat.