Pro-democracy water campaigners have taken over the regional council offices in Christchurch today.

They’re demanding that local democracy be returned to the people of Canterbury so they can get on with saving the region’s ailing rivers.

Around 100 Cantabrians have occupied ECan’s lobby and are refusing to move.  They have hung banners reading Save Our Rivers – Democracy Now.

“Today we are standing up for our rivers and we are taking our democracy back” says Greenpeace campaigner Gen Toop.

 “We will not to be silenced and we will not stand aside and let our rivers continue to be destroyed by too many cows.”

Backed by Greenpeace, local activists are calling for urgent action to save rivers, including a return of their democratic right to vote for their regional councillors.

Seven years ago the Government sacked the region’s democratically elected councillors.  They also restricted the ability for Cantabrians to legally challenge decisions about water management made by those commissioners.

“The Government have stolen democracy from the people of Canterbury. In return they gave us more big irrigation, more cows and more polluted rivers.”

The activists have set up “The People’s Ecan” inside the lobby where they are listing their demands of ECan to clean up rivers.

“They will be sharing stories about what’s happened to their rivers and drawing up a manifesto of change for the regional council.”

“The only way to have clean rivers in NZ is to have fewer cows.  But the Government and ECan are enabling big irrigation schemes to go ahead which will mean more cows and we all know more cows means more polluted rivers”

 “All political parties vying for government who are serious about saving our rivers must both reduce the dairy herd and return democracy to the people of Canterbury immediately.

Updates are being posted via social media to:



Just months before the removal of local democracy former Prime Minister John Key said his Government intended to remove regulatory roadblocks to water storage and irrigation in Canterbury. (1)

Government documents then disclosed to The Press under the Official Information Act, revealed that the protection of Canterbury’s economic contribution and its future growth were indeed a “key consideration” for suspending democracy. (2)

ECan have  been heavy handed in trying to shut down recent protests about water pollution.  Two weeks ago they served local artist Sam Mahon with an injunction to try and prevent him from handing them a larger than life sculpture of Nick Smith relieving himself in a glass of water.