On Tuesday I was on the steps of Parliament with Christchurch based MPs from Labour and NZ First to deliver an open letter to the Prime Minister from seven Christchurch groups and the Wizard of New Zealand seeking a restoration of democracy in Canterbury.
We investigated the decision making around the Government’s suspension of Cantabrians’ right to elect a regional council for six long years. I thought it might be useful to outline the decision timeline based on the sequence of departmental reports to Ministers. Documents released under the Official Information Act (OIA) can be downloaded here.
The big question is why did the Ministers, Amy Adams and David Carter, and Cabinet choose to disregard six months of work and advice from the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA), Ministry for the Environment (MfE), and their own hand- picked ECan commissioners saying that there should be elections for ECan in 2013?
- Starting from 3April 2012 all papers released by the agencies favour having a mix of commissioners and elected councillors.
- 11June : DIA and MfE point out that “the right of electors to democratically elect accountable representatives is a fundamental principle of governance.”
- 1August: the Government wrote off the idea of having only commissioners saying, about this option: “Key cost: limited opportunity for local democratic decision-making. Benefits (minor): Responds to time critical need to set arrangements for Canterbury, but the scale of intervention could be excessive.”
- 3August : paper again confirms mixed commissioners and elected councillors as the only option and said that this would be discussed at Cabinet on 6 August.
- 30 August : the option has been changed to extending commissioners with no elected councillors. The Bill was introduced into the house 7 days later.
The Ministers claimed that the need for “stable, efficient and effective” governance was the reason Commissioners should continue and there will be no vote for Environment Canterbury in 2013. I believe it has more to do with Government not trusting Cantabrians to elect a regional council that would promote Government’s irrigation development agenda.