It was standing room only at a public meeting organised by the Green party in Christchurch last night to protest the government’s sacking of Environment Canterbury.
100 people who couldn’t get into the meeting held an impromptu meeting outside. The meeting hadn’t even been advertised in the media—who knows how many would have turned up if it had!
It’s and indication of just how riled people are at the way the government has sacked their democratically elected Regional Council on trumped up charges, before a single member of the public had been allowed to have their say.
They were even more furious when I pointed out that was no legal basis for sacking the Council. Nick Smith was forced to concede in Parliament that there was no justification for getting rid of the Council under any existing law. That’s why the government had to draft a new law to make its illegal act legal—and why it rammed it through Parliament under urgency and did not even allow submissions or a normal select committee process.
Everyone realises that the government got rid of ECan for exactly the same reason that Commodore Bainimarama got rid of democracy in Fiji—because they saw it as an obstacle to their plans—in their case, to fast track irrigation and dairying in Canterbury.
The new Commissioners will be accountable to Cabinet, not to the people of Canterbury. They will take their orders from Cabinet, not from the people of Canterbury. Cabinet will give these hand picked, unaccountable and unelected Commissioners their terms of reference, and will be able to change them any time, by executive fiat. And they will be able to fire any Commissioner who doesn’t carry out their instructions.
What has happened to ECan is not only an outrageous attack on democracy, its also a very dangerous precedent. Now that the government has got rid of eight Councils in Auckland, and one in Canterbury, many New Zealanders are wondering nervously which Council will get the chop next, on spurious and trumped up charges, next.
Here is a link to the speech I gave last night to the meeting.
If the government can get away with destroying a democratic institution because it doesn’t like their policies, then they can get away with anything. We must fight back.
If you’ve got any ideas how we can fight back I’d be interested to hear them, please comment below or send me an email here.