The news has come through that ECans restructing of its policy making planning dept has resulted in the redundancy of many of the regions most experienced and respected resource managers. These redundancies are at odds with the thrust of the Creech Report and raises the question as to whether ECans 'fit for purpose' review is now more about far right wing economic ideology than the needs of the Canterbury region and its citizens.
Our elected ECan council was replaced as a consequence of the recommendations of the Creech report, one of whose key recommendations was:
"ECan requires more experienced practicing planners, economists and social scientists on staff to facilitate a better balance between environmental, economic, social and cultural perspectives"
ECan in Exile says to be removing highly experienced planners, many of whom are the countries most knowledgeable on the regions key water and air issues, while indicating that up to 10 policy planning vacancies are still to be filled from the restructuring beggars belief.
It also raises the question whether the Creech 'fit for purpose' restructuring has been diverted to satisfy the commissioners drive to produce a zero rate rise possibly to satisfy the policies of its far right political masters. Local Government Minister & ACT Part Leader, the Hon Rodney Hide, is on record as favouring capped rates rises (LINK). We understand that the governments ECan commissioners tend to submit their draft progress reports to Minsters Hide and Smith for comment before releasing them and briefing Canterbury members of parliament. If true there would seem to be ample scope for Minister Hide to inject his parties far right ideology into the management of Environment Canterbury.
Speculation is that a zero rates rise supports what some believe to be the real ECan agenda: to use ECan as an ACT party policy demonstration council during next years elections while starving ECan of the resources and experienced staff to do its job. Then, after next years general election, the governments ECan commissioners could report to its government masters that ECan is incapable of redemption and so must be dis-established. This would remove ECans influence to sustainably manage the region for the benefit of its citizens and instead deliver it up to some of the regions right leaning district and city councils who tend to favour short term corporate economic development ahead sustainable development for its communities.
Also concern is mounting as to where the voice of NZ's professional resource management institutes is in the current debate. ECan in Exile cannot recall hearing anything publicly from the NZ Planning Institute, Resource Management Law Association nor the NZ/Australia Environmental Institute. Gutting the effectiveness of ECans resource management capabilities, given the regions issues & their relationship to critical national and international issues, must be of concern to the profession as well as citizens of Canterbury.
Update: ECan in Exile will be watching carefully as ECans restructuring continues with its critical consents function next in line.