Ecan labelled adversarial

Environment Canterbury costs too much to deal with, based on the experience of the Waitaki District Council and some of its ratepayers.

The Waitaki council has attacked delays and costs incurred, particularly over resource consents for sewerage schemes and water supplies, when it has had to deal with the Christchurch-based regional council, compared with the Otago Regional Council.

Bureaucracy, providing data, scientific argument, delays and the adversarial nature of its dealings are all being blamed.

The Waitaki council made a submission on the Environment Canterbury (ECan) 2010-11 annual plan and budget, which will be considered by seven commissioners the Government appointed when it sacked ECan's 14 elected councillors in March.

The submission said the Waitaki council and its constituents had for years expressed concern at the inordinate costs and delays dealing with ECan.

The council worked out environmental management costs at $1871 per square kilometre of ECan's region, compared with about $600 for the Otago region, just over $500 for Southland and about $700 for the West Coast.

While acknowledging the "apples and oranges" difficulty in cost comparisons, the Waitaki council said that only partly explained the marked differences.

"Our hunch - and it is only a hunch - as a customer of two regional councils, is that the high costs are caused primarily, but not solely, by the extraordinary lengthy consent process for both water takes and water discharges," the submission said.

But the Waitaki council could see "little point in re-hashing some of the old war stories pitting bureaucrats against townships".

The costs of an overly bureaucratic approach by ECan needed to be fully recognised, challenged and moderated by the new commissioners. It wanted them to pay particular attention to ECan's bureaucracy to ensure management made every effort to streamline consent procedures and arrest cost increases.

The Waitaki council criticised the adversarial nature of the consents process that pitted scientists against ECan's scientists and the demand for data, which was often then disputed.

- david.bruce@odt.co.nz

 

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