The emphatic call from Deputy ECan Commissioner, David Caygill, of ‘no redundancies’ on CTV’s Rural Programme, Rob’s Country, recently will ring very hollow indeed to Environment Canterbury’s sole energy policy analyst who ECan in Exile believes has been made redundant and will leave the council this month.
The councils much respected Energy Policy Analyst leaves this month after his position is believed to have been dis-established in what speculation puts down to a pre-emptive move to cut staffing costs before the ECan commissioners ‘razor gang’ moves to re-direct already reduced budgets toward the governments priority water projects.
Former ECan Chair and CCC councillor candidate, Sir Kerry Burke, commenting on the news said, “After nine weeks in office the commission has perhaps now made a major decision.”
Sir Kerry Burke, who was a member of ECan’s Air Quality and Energy Portfolio Committee, commented that his understanding was the council budget included work on energy that included a staff member and that he understood the budget had not been changed as a result of the annual plan process.
The possible significance of any move to dis-establish the energy analyst position has not been lost on water issue activists who now wonder if the field is being tipped in favour of the irrigation lobby. It is believed that the analysts work had already identified that the conflict between water allocation for irrigation vs hydroelectric power generation had potentially major implications for Canterbury’s future sustainable development.
Although the analysts work included helping the region adapt to climate change impacts, his main focus was helping to properly prepare the region for a future where energy could be a much scarcer resource. The need for integrated energy planning in the region was believed to be spurred on by a 2007 University of Canterbury Engineering report for government that predicted “In 2030 there is an 85% chance that people in New Zealand will have 30% less energy than we have now.”
“The draft energy strategy has to be adopted, it is the only policy document that implements Canterbury’s current and future energy requirements, if it doesn’t proceed ECan won’t have a mandate to be involved in energy issues,” former Air Quality and Energy Portfolio Committee Chair, Bronwen Murray, commented.
“The question to ask of governance is how will the community involvement in energy discussion continue, as the role that most interacted with the community will no longer be adequately full filled,” she said.
Meanwhile, former ECan councillor and CCC mayoral candidate, Rik Tindall, joined the chorus of concern from former members of the Air Quality and Energy Portfolio Committee dismayed at the apparent move away from sustainable planning in the region.
“The decision is unfortunate, as it removes an avenue for exploring energy efficiency, emissions reduction, and sustainable, alternative land uses,” Rik Tindall said.
“In all these areas the decision has the look of a government carving up the regional council’s duties and opportunities, for their own centralised and privatised control,” he said.
ECan Deputy Commissioner, David Caygill, and CTV Rob’s Country host, Rob Cope-Williams, were both contacted for, but did not return, comments.