Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Environment Canterbury (Transitional Governance Arrangements) Bill


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This is the submission I just made to the ECAN bill- I called for up to 3 appointed members (two representing manawhenua and one representing future generations) and a return in other ways to the elected member model of the 2007 Electoral Review- the last time we had a fair and open electoral review in Canterbury
If you want to make a submission get your comments into the Government on this Bill here
BEFORE 5pm Tonight online here (scroll to the bottom of the site link for the submit button)
Environment Canterbury (Transitional Governance Arrangements) Bill

Submission by

Assc Professor Bronwyn Hayward

Head of the Department of Political Science and International Relations

University of Canterbury, Christchurch , New Zealand

Ph +64  021 2727069


Introduction







The Environment Canterbury (Transitional Governance Arrangements) Bill establishes a mixed-model governance structure for the Canterbury Regional Council (Environment Canterbury) . This move is welcomed and overdue. However the current model fails to deliver either a timely, robust, clear, or effective framework for the management of natural resources for three reasons:

  1. A failure to justify clear, robust  criteria for up to 6 appointments (possibly 2 could be justified, reflecting  the views of Ngai Tahu and future generations) all other represntatives should be chosen by electoral ballot
  2. A failure to justify transparent, legitimate criteria for the new electorate boundaries based on the pre 2010 arrangements.
  3. A failure to ensure an effective framework for timely transition to representative governance or robust reasoning for the carrying forward of the limitation on appeal rights
     

a) Failure to justify clear, robust criteria for up to 6 appointments  and new electorate boundaries

The Environment Canterbury (Transitional Governance Arrangements) Bill establishes a mixed-model governance structure for the Canterbury Regional Council (ECAN) for the 2016–2019 term.

The Government in drafting the Bill, argues it will facilitate the continued timely development of a robust, clear, and effective framework for the management of natural resources—particularly fresh water and nutrient management—in Canterbury. This is a welcome and overdue statement particularly given the acceleration of nutrient pollution under an appointed body which was justified in part as a means to reduce this problem.

However the Bill falls far short of these standards and quite frankly is more akin to the forms of governance we teach students about in developing economies which place governance at risk of corruption, gerrymandering and undue influence on democratic process. If government appointments are made with poor justification, transparent and legitimate government is very difficult to achieve.

We are all shamed by the previous three years of poor local accountability to the ratepayers of the city of Christchurch. But it is not enough to merely call for full restoration of elected governance as if there were no opportunity for improvement and learning from this experience.

If the Canterbury region really is to be supported by a well-functioning regional council the terms of any mixed model need much more attention and robust defence.

In particular there is currently no adequate justification in the current Bill for the appointment of up to 6 councillors by the Government and the bill is unfair to Christchurch residents in particular.

Christchurch City residents account for approximately two thirds of the total regional population and a significant rate base for ECAN,  it is therefore entirely unreasonable and unfair if the city is relegated to representation in 4 electorates with appointees and rural communities making up the rest of the 13 members of any new council.

To understand the impact of the new bill it is important to compare the new proposal with the Local Government Commission determination of fair representative arrangements in its last special hearing in 2007.

The NZ Local Government Commission determination of 2007 summarised below, clearly shows the differences:

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-WRHtM_5GUE4/VUL_d9hsMzI/AAAAAAAABAA/a_w30iYRhiA/s1600/ecan%2Bvote%2B2007%2Bmodel.PNG

 

 

 

Comparing both models highlights the extent to which the new Bill deviates from the Local Government Commission 2007ruling about what constituted fair representation for Canterbury in 2007 (the last time we had an election ruling). That determination was reached after extensive hearings and appeals.  The new Bill effectively tries to side-line that decision. It tries to reduce 4 urban Christchurch electorates (previously represented by 8 councillors) to just 4 representatives. It is hard to find any other term for the current proposal than gerrymandering. A fair basis for discussion should begin with 2007 arrangements, not the proposal here.

 

 

The bill now allows for only 7 elected members using first past the post and creates new electorates:

  • South Canterbury constituency:

 

  • A mid-Canterbury constituency):

 

  • A North Canterbury constituency):

 

  • And 4 members must be elected, at large, by electors of Christchurch City Council

 

In addition it now enables (but does not justify) the responsible Ministers to appoint up to 6 additional representatives where at most only three can be justified.

 

The new grounds for appointment are 3 members of the transitional governing body no later than 28 days after the transition day; and  subsequently, no more than 3 other members. The onus is on the government to justify to electors why 3 additional appointments?

 

At present the only justification offered is to “complement the knowledge and expertise of the elected members in “management of fresh water” (but surely this knowledge set is the basis of employing nearly the entire staff serving ECAN?). In addition the Bill allows for appointments reflecting local authority governance and management; and tikanga Māori, as it applies in the Canterbury region; and the Canterbury region and its people. The latter is simply unjustified as the purpose ofany free and fair elections is to fairly represent electorates.

 

b) Towards A better justification for up to three appointed members

 

If we are to have far sighted decision making for the long term, a government and opposition could be arguing for the appointment of a representative for future generations, (a representative could  be appointed in consultation for example with the Children’s Commissioner), and similarly for up to two appointments representing manawhenua (Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu) and wider interests of tikanga Māori in consultation with the Minister of Māori Development).

 

To appoint more than 3 members to ECAN, however (especially given that in the past there was very little change of membership from council to council anyway, with only 6 of 14 members changing in any election on average), is not justified and amounts to undue influence, increasingly not decreasing the possibility of instability and undermining the lack of legitimacy of appointed members.

 

We need very careful arguments about the boundaries for Ecan and we should build from what existed before, not try to assert new boundaries that advantage rural communities and ignore the expanding “fuzzy boundaries” of a large urban population. Any discussion of ECAN functions should not begin with the assumption that ECAN functions are most relevant to rural communities. Regional functions are not more important to rural communities than urban populations especially in a century in which most people will live in cities. In reality spending on transport, air quality, and water are issues of primary concern for all New Zealanders, the views of the dairy industry or city residents should not be given precedence over other citizens and future generations- Canterbury’s children, their grandchildren deserve better planning.

 

 

C)  More timely transition to representative governance and appeal rights

 

 One strength of the current commission arrangement is that Ngāi Tahu has a formal partnership arrangement which builds from otherwise highly contentious legislation. We could debate a case for enabling this to continue within up to two statutory appointments. For example, one appointment may be made on the recommendation of Ngāi Tahu and one on the recommendation of the Minister for Māori Development, while one remaining appointment may be made, on the recommendation of the Children’s Commissioner.

 

Beyond this however  is not clear constitutionally why any particular interest group: either the dairy industry, urban residents, or recreation users should have special representation on an elected board where there are already zone committees and other mechanisms to ensure a wide range of industry and special interest group views are robustly considered.

 

The Local DHB performs a similar complex governance task adequately with 11 representatives, only  4 of which are appointed. If we give special voice to particular interests, young people should also be entitled to representation if not a vote in ECAN elections, especially given they will bear the burden of the decisions we make today. Extending the franchise to 16 year olds may offer some positive way to compensate for the loss of the franchise in the past. The experience of the Scottish parliamentary referendum and Austria’s elections where 16 year olds have already won the franchise shows they have a thoughtful voice, and their inclusion helps enhance long term thinking. In Canterbury a broader franchise would better reflect a spirit of kaitakitanga-in wise guardianship for the future.

 

ECAN is not “all about water”, and while we can be supportive of our rural communities, our decision making must be bigger than our dairy industry. Dairy interests are currently vital to our economy but our regional government is also charged with thinking and planning for the long term, for our intergenerational , multicultural, and widely divergent socio economic needs. Simply because our governance models have become trapped into one way of seeing the world, is not a reason to restrict the future democratic opportunities for Canterbury citizens, through highly partisan reforms nor for continuing to limit the appeal rights of communities in this region.

 “WEcan” do a better job in governing local resources as a democracy, “Wecan” be better than this bill currently allows.

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