This article ( not pictures) is reprinted from the Greens website and is by Eugenie Sage
The National/Act Government's lack of commitment to democracy is obvious in the Environment Canterbury (Temporary Commissioners and Improved Water Management) Amendment Bill. The Bill will extend National's 2010 legislation which axed Environment Canterbury councillors, suspended regional council elections, weakened water conservation orders, and removed the right to appeal regional plans at the Environment Court.
In 2010 the National Government promised to reinstate democracy in Canterbury in time for the 2013 local body elections. Instead, this new Bill will postpone regional council elections for Environment Canterbury (ECan) for another 4 years until 2016. The Government's excuses for this are feeble.
The Green Party is encouraging anyone concerned about the value of democracy to make a submission opposing its continued suspension in Canterbury.
What should I include in my submission?
Try to put your arguments in your own words and be clear about your opposition to this Bill.
Use a personal story to show how this Bill will affect you and your community.
How do I make a submission?
The last day for submissions is Tuesday 23 October 2012.
You're able to submit a hard copy or an electronic one. The Parliament website gives you the option to upload a word document or type your views into their submission form.
Ask to be heard.
You can choose whether you want to present in person to the select committee by stating that you wish to be heard. This can be in person or by teleconference. Usually the hearings are held in Wellington but the committee will go to other centres if there is enough demand. We hope that many Canterbury residents will ask to be heard so that the committee will come to Christchurch to hear from the people most affected by this Bill.
How long should my submission be?
There is no special format, it can be as long or as short as you like.
Points you could cover
Denial of voting rights
The Press described the Government's decision to suspend regional council elections as "the most radical denial of voting rights that this nation has experienced in recent times—a fact that disadvantages Cantabrians and besmirches the Government."
Let the select committee know that there is no reason to deny Cantabrians the right to vote for their regional council for six years
A locally elected council is accountable to their voters; a council appointed by the Government is accountable to Government Ministers instead.
The Government has trampled on democracy with the draconian powers it has given to Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority.
The Government's own appointed Commissioners at ECan have recommended to Government that they be replaced by a mix of a majority of elected regional councillors and appointed commissioners.
Local government reorganisation
National's Local Government Bill also before Parliament reduces the ability of communities to have a say on council amalgamation and reorganisation. Postponing ECan elections may be part of National's plan for a major reorganisation of local government in Canterbury to create bigger, more bureaucratic and less representative and accountable local authorities.
Taxation without representation
Canterbury residents pay around $80 million in rates annually to ECan. By 2016 Cantabrians will have paid more than $450 million in rates to the regional council, with no elected voice at the council table on how that rate money is spent. This breaches the fundamental principle of no taxation without representation.
Access to justice restricted
This Bill also restricts access to justice by outlawing appeals to the Environment Court on regional plans and the regional policy statement. This compromises the quality of decision making under the Resource Management Act in Canterbury. The Environment Court has developed a sizable body of case law on how the RMA should be interpreted. Its scrutiny of council' decisions can substantially improve plans; as happened recently with the One Plan in the Manawatu.
Water protection compromised
This Bill continues the weakening of water conservation orders (WCOs) in Canterbury started by the original 2010 Act. This replaced the 'preservation' purpose of Part 9 of the RMA with a 'sustainable management' purpose for any applications to amend existing WCOs or seek new ones. The legislation helped Trustpower Ltd in its application to amend the Rakaia WCO to take more water for irrigation. It may encourage irrigators to seek to amend other WCOs and discourages applications for orders over other rivers such as the Hurunui River. It also removed water conservation orders from the jurisdiction of the Environment Court and made the recommendation of the commissioners to the Minister the final sign-off instead.
These changes should have ended in 2013 and returned to the situation that applies in the rest of New Zealand. This 2012 Bill will instead continue this undermining of WCOs in the principal Act. This flies in the face of advice from the Ministry for the Environment, the Department of Internal Affairs, and the Ministry for Primary Industries, which considered that there was "insufficient justification for continuing special provisions for water conservation orders in Canterbury."