Waitaki council favours new body

Overbearing, Draconian, dictatorial and dominated by Christchurch were some of the ways Waitaki district councillors described the relationship with the Canterbury regional council.

Yesterday, Waitaki councillors voted unanimously to pursue an investigation into breaking away from the Canterbury council and forming a central South Island regional council with northern neighbours the Waimate, Mackenzie, Timaru and Ashburton district councils.

It is the latest move in growing dissatisfaction with the way the Canterbury regional council, Environment Canterbury (ECan), has dealt with its southern area since local body reforms in 1989.

That culminated in a public meeting at Waitaki Bridge late last year calling on the five district councils to investigate forming a new regional council in the central South Island.

At the Waitaki District Council's monthly meeting yesterday, chief executive Michael Ross put forward three recommendations that will see it join the other four councils in an investigation into the new regional council.

Cr Struan Munro said ECan's work was dominated by Christchurch and it was possible that in 10 years' time, the southern area could have only one regional councillor (instead of two).

Deputy mayor Gary Kircher said dealings between the Waitaki and Canterbury councils had ranged from ‘‘overbearing to big brother to Draconian''.

Cr Jim Hopkins said the regional council should ‘‘hang its head in shame'' about the way it had dealt with the southern area. He suggested the cleanest solution would be for Christchurch and its surrounds also to form a unitary authority.

Mr Ross said the regional council had formed a new southern committee with the intention of delegating greater powers to the southern area, but the five southern district councils had found out what those powers would be.

It appeared the regional council was willing to delegate powers dealing with water control bylaws and the Waitaki lakes, but the district councils were more concerned about broader policy and the Government devolving more functions.

(The Waitaki district is in two regions. Most of the Waitaki catchment is in the Canterbury region, with the rest of the district, including Oamaru, under the Otago Regional Council. At this stage, the part of the district in the Canterbury region would be included in a central South Island region, if one is formed.)

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