Call for additional ECan councillor

Craig Rowley
Craig Rowley
Mackenzie, Waimate and Waitaki district councils have joined together to say one councillor is not enough for South Canterbury, as Environment Canterbury (ECan) returns to a fully democratically elected council.

In a joint submission the councils argue for two South Canterbury councillors out of 14, as was the case before 2010 when the Government replaced the ECan council with commissioners to sort out water management problems.

Full ECan elections will be held in 2019 for the first time since 2007 and the proposed community representation includes one South Canterbury councillor out of 13 elected representatives for the region. Waimate Mayor Craig Rowley said the proposal, based on the distribution of Canterbury’s population, would be unfair to South Canterbury, which includes the Waitaki River catchment, and makes up 39.84% of the entire region.

"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," he said.

Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher said in Waitaki, a comparable situation already played out in the large Ahuriri ward, which could not suitably conform to the Local Electoral Act guidelines whereby each councillor should represent the same number of citizens within a threshold of plus or minus 10%.

He said the broader Waitaki River catchment area should be treated as an area with a special character.

"You’ve got a very large metropolitan area of Christchurch that actually has the say on what happens. Because they’ve got more than half the population, they’ve got the majority of votes as to what happens everywhere across Canterbury.

"They spend a lot of time talking about public transport in their meetings, I know they do, and yet for us we don’t have any public transport. What we care about is the Waitaki River — the quality of our water, and the quality of our air. And our issues are very separate to Christchurch’s."

Under the current proposal, Christchurch would be represented by eight councillors, and North and Mid Canterbury would each get two.

A Waimate District Council statement noted the Timaru District Council would decide on Tuesday  if it would be a signatory to the joint submission. ECan was restored to a partial democracy in the 2016 elections.

Submissions on Ecan’s representation proposal close on July 30.

hamish.maclean@odt.co.nz

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