‘ECan in Exile’ News

Our latest news, media releases & comments….

ECan Councillor to Eyeball Smith in Parliament

29 November 2011

Dr Nick Smiths free run over Canterbury democracy in parliament came to a screeching halt last weekend with the election to parliament of respected ECan councillor Eugenie Sage.  Eugenie Sage, who comes to parliament thanks to increased voter endorsement of the Green Party richer NZ manifesto, will be in a prime position to assist the Green Party leadership to hold National & Dr Smith to account across the floor of parliament.

Part of Eugenies motivation to stand for parliament was, according to Sage, “The appalling way in which the ECan Act was drafted and passed, with scant debate and scrutiny by Parliament, and its consequences for water conservation orders and democracy”

However, Eugenie Sage is essentially  positive and  forward looking and so is likley to be also be interested in helping deliver kiwis a richer quality of life through contributing to upcoming issues such as Canterbury’s earthquake recovery and shaping a better life for future generations.

“We are so happy that one of our outstanding & respected elected ECan councillors has been elevated to parliament. Eugenie brings a deep understanding and positive advocacy for sustaining the Canterbury quality of life and we are sure parliament will find these qualities of great use to the country and she is also in a prime position to counter  political spin on the fitness of Canterbury citizens to run our own regional democracy.” ECan in Exiles Helen Isra said today.

The multi talented Sage is no stranger to the cut and thrust of  life in the Beehive for as well as skills as a lawyer, advocate & journalist she has previously been a ministerial press secretary in one of the more challenging porfolios of government.

Eugenie Sage has a background in sustaining resources to promote a richer quality of life  and served ECan citizens on  important resource issues and chaired the councils liaison and cooperation group. Since the National led government  denied us our regional democratic rights she has continued to serve Cantabrians  as a community member to the Selwyn-Waihora Zone Water Management Committee of Canterbury Water Management Strategy.

Eugenie Sage joins other elected ECan councillors who have risen above the National led governments actions against our democracy and won the support of citizens to continue to  serve democracy and their communities. Crs Angus MacKay and Ross Little were elected to office  in last years council elections and Cr Jo Kane is positively contributing to Canterbury democracy & recovery through her Canterbury TV current affairs programmes.

Contact details for all of our elected ECan councillors can be found on the ECan in Exile website.

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Are Warmer Homes on the Post Election Chopping Block?

24 November 2011

The TV3 documentary: Inside Child Poverty, highlighted the importance of having warm healthy homes for the good of our kids and yet we at ECan in Exile are hearing worrying rumours from within industry that energy efficiency home upgrades may be in next line for the razor gang, post-election.

Our information is that, if the current government is returned, funding to some energy efficiency incentives will be cut very soon after the election and no new work for affected programmes will be authorised after 30 June 2012.

If true this is very worrying to us in Canterbury because we have many already cold, damp homes made worse by the effects of earthquake structural and ground damage. Also, this governments ECan commissioners have already axed our warm home retrofit scheme in Christchurch because, they say, the government is providing and funding an adequate energy efficiency home retrofitting scheme.

We are more concerned because the National Party’s 2011 Energy & Resources policy statement  seems to be indicating that it wants to pull back from government funding of retrofitting and upgrades, despite also committing to completing existing upgrades:

” What we will do next…Work to encourage third-party participation in funding and special home-insulation projects so more families can have warmer, drier, healthier homes.”
– National Party 2011 Policy Link (page 4) – http://www.national.org.nz/PDF_General/Energy_and_Resources_policy.pdf

Now either industry insiders are not being properly briefed on this issue or perhaps we are perhaps getting the rosier view before the election but may be subject to quite another attitude once our votes are safely in the ballot box. Whatever the reason for the confusion, we say our kids deserve much better than double talk and  sleight of hand policies from any of our political parties and represenatives.

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Associated Info

Parties Warm Home Policies:

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Remember Our Regional Democracy When You Vote

24 November 2011

Barely a year ago three thousand of us Cantabrians gathered on a cold June winters day  at our beautiful and then wholly intact Christchurch Cathedral to call for our the restoration of our regional democracy.

“When Cantabrians exercise their remaining democratic rights at this weekends general election they have the opportunity to send a clear message that dumbing down our democratic rights will not be tolerated.” ECan in Exiles Helen Isra said today

ECan in Exile says natures  ground shaking may have shifted citizens focus from the democratic earthquake that the government unleashed on our regional democracy but it worthwhile to remember what motivated Cantabrians to come to the Reflections on Water democracy rally (watch the youtube video HERE).

  • Regional Council elected representatives sacked with only  months to go before council elections
  • Our regional democratic voting rights cancelled until 2013
  • Governments ECan review panel selecting who it heard from in reviewing our council
  • Government refusing calls for submissions from public on the review
  • Government rushing the ECan law through parliament thus denying public submissions through the select committee process
  •  ECan’s government commissioners denying speaking rights to citizens on democracy issues at ECan’s annual plan – a move that is against local government law

ECan in Exile says Canterbury citizens should reflect on who it trusts to defend our democracy and remember that despite the devastation in our city the Democracy Cairn we built together on that cold June day still stands as an unwavering silent witness to the outrage the National led government inflicted on our democratic rights.

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News Media Swallows ECan Fudge

14 September 2011

Canterbury citizens have reacted with dismay the seeming blind acceptance of anything the Minister Environment says about ECan without, it seems, seeking balancing comment from knowledgeable commentators.

The latest incident is the reporting by Radio NZ of a patsy question in Parliament to Environment Minister, Nick Smith on his slant on so called improvements in consent processing since the National led government removed the democratically elected ECan council.

Earlier today Radio NZ reported the Ministers assertions of improvements and a dairy owners satisfaction but did not seek any balancing comments in early reports from others like the ECan councillors from the period in question. This despite ECan in Exile understanding that respected former Ecan Councillor, Eugenie Sage, provided Radio NZ with balancing comments & audio the evening before.

ECan in Exile’s Helen Isra said this extremely disappointing given that Canterbury citizens view a balanced media as their last bastion of holding the government and commissioners to account.

“It was well know and reported in the media that by time of the Creech report that consent processing increasingly within statutory guidelines and it is extremely disappointing that no balancing views were reported from knowledgeable ECan councillors such as Sir Kerry Burke, Eugene Sage, Jo Kane or Rik Tindall all of who’s contact details are on the ECan in Exile website. The slant from the Minister is no more than we have come to expect from him in his apparent drive to turn ECan into a branch of his personal PR machine but we expect better balance from one of NZ’s most respected media organisations.”

ECan in Exile says that by the time of the Creech report ECan was reporting 85% of consents were processed within time frames. Isra says this information is on ECans own website and it would have been the work of a moment for the media to check out the voracity of the Ministers assertions.

“We cannot expect balance from the National led governments appointed Commissioners given they meet with the Ministers before finalising their reports to them, we have seen commissioners deny citizens legal rights to be democratically heard and they seem willing to bend over backwards to accommodate the Environment Ministers various PR adventures,” Isra said today.

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Associated Info

  • Scoop patsy question to Minister Smith: LINK
  • ECan processing times 2009 85% in time: LINK
  • Contact details for ECan councillors at the time. LINK

Quake Review Panel Fee Outrage Raises ECan Commission Fee Questions

18 July 2011

The news that the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Review Panel fees are well in excess of official guidelines raises questions as to whether Canterbury regional ratepayers are being overcharged for the governments ECan Commissioners fees and ECan in Exile is calling for each of the governments ECan Commissioners itemised fees, expenses and in kind support to be published quarterly on the ECan website.

According to official papers made public recently the Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee sought “exceptional” fees for the quake decision panel, above the usual range established in the Cabinet Fees Framework of $360-$655 a day for a chairman and $270-$415 for members.

“The exceptional fees awarded to the quake panel  show a remarkable similarity to the fees awarded to the governments
ECan commissioners and raises the question as to whether  ECan ratepayers are being overcharged for the National led governments unelected commissioners,” ECan in Exiles Helen Isra said.

“On current figures the amount over overcharging, over that authorised under the fees framework, could be considerable at up to $472,000 for the last year, excluding travelling and other expenses,”  Isra said

ECan in Exile is calling for much better transparency of Commissioners & ECans CEO remuneration, including itemised fees, expenses and in-kind expenses and legal authority for each item, to be published at least quarterly on ECans website in a similar manner to that undertaken by EQC for it’s CEO on its website.

“Both the media and ourselves have been met with resistance and stalling tactics from this governments ECan Commission over the ongoing remuneration issue. Transparency of  payments, from our rates, to the governments non-elected Commissioners is the minimum we expect especially when our normal democratic accountability rights have been stripped away by the National led government,” Isra said.

Recently reporters at THE PRESS had to threaten to go to the Ombudsman to get individual fee breakdown and last year ECan In Exile had an official information request to ECan on commissioner fees referred to a government Ministers office and was also subject to a request for an off the record meeting on a possible withholding of remuneration official information.

According to ECan in Exile the law establishing the ECan Commission detailed that the Commissioners remuneration would be ” by way of salary, fees, and allowances at a rate determined by the responsible Ministers” and the current quake fees scandal indicates the guideline that Ministers should use is the Cabinet Fees Framework of $360-$655 a day for a chairman and $270-$415  for a member rather than the almost $900 – $1500 paid to commissioners.
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Associated Info

  • ‘ECan’ Act commissioners Pay Provision: LINK
  • Cabinet Fees Framework: LINK
  • Our democratically elected Ex ECan Councillors for Finance & Audit are:
    Alec Neill – Chair: 2010, Professor Bob Kirk, Carole Evans, Eugenie Sage, Jane Demeter, Jo Kane, Sir Kerry Burke, Pat Harrow. Their contact details can be found on our YOUR COUNCILLORS page.

Will CCC Dumping of CBD Shuttle Hamper Post-Quake CBD Recovery?

14 July 2011

CCC’s apparent penny-pinching dumping the free CBD Shuttle Bus raises questions as to CCC’s commitment to post quake CBD revitalisation as well as it’s fitness to run public transport for the region.

On its blog entry for 12 July 2011 NZ In Transit reported that Christchurch City Council (in its June agenda) appear to have permanently dropped “The Shuttle”, Christchurch’s  iconic central business district serving free bus service. Further, the blog post reported that there was nothing to suggest there was any options explored to prevent the axing of the service.

ECan in Exile finds this astonishing at at time when CBD business groups are struggling to pave the way for recovery from the recent devastating earthquakes and encourage businesses, investors  and customers to return to the CBD later this year.  Ridership figures from 2009 show the shuttles patronage exceeded 2 million, well in excess of it’s target of 850,000.  The shuttles patrons would appear to be just the sort needed to help lead a recovery of the CBD. According to NZ In Transit The Shuttles benefits include “being a user friendly city for tourists; in stimulating uses of buses in general, in  helping attract foreign students, in creating a lively modern eco-image (The Shuttle is believed to have been the first timetabled service hybrid bus system anywhere in the world); in making inner city living possible without a car; that has been The Shuttle’s real gift to the city.”

We, at ECan in Exile, say  axing the CBD Shuttle must call into question the CCC Bob Parker led councils fitness to fulfil its ambition to run the regional public transport system when this action appears to show that penny-pinching will win out over almost any community need or values.

In line with their seeming arms length distant approach to post quake recovery we are not aware of  this governments appointed ECan Commissioners making any public comment on the issue.

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Associated Info

  • NZ In Transit blog can be accessed from our WE LIKE page
  • Your democratically elected Ex ECan Councillors for Passenger Public Transport are: Carole Evans, Bronwen Murray, Jane Demeter, Jo Kane, Mark Oldfield and Pat Harrow . Their contact details can be found on our YOUR COUNCILLORS page.
  • Local Govt Minister, Hon Rodney Hide, raised speculation of a post general election move toward a Christchurch Unitary Council in his recent address to the 2011 Local Government Conference.

Cathedral Square Democracy Cairn Still Stands Proud

28 May 2011

Although much of Christchurch’s Cathedral Square lies twisted and fallen, the democracy cairn built at the Reflections On Water event in June last year still stands proud as a touch stone for our regional democracy and the thorn in the side of those who would subjugate our community for their own ends.

Ironically, days before the quake of Feb 22 the City Council were applying pressure to have the cairn moved to a more ‘discreet’ location over what democracy campaigners believed was concern, from certain elements in the council, that Rugby World Cup visitors may feel less than warmly toward a those who conspired to remove our regional democracy.

The world cup may have gone from the city away but the voices of the thousands of hardy Cantabrian’s who braved a cold June winters day to keep the embers of democracy burning remain.  The cairn remains as a physical reminder that we must continue to stand strong and bear active witness until the democracy we deserve is restored.

Tū Toa – stand strong

ECan pro democracy event

Civil Defence On-line Links

22 February 2011

Here are some useful Civil Defence websites to help you cope with the latest severe aftershock:

ECan and Civil Defence in the Latest Severe Aftershock

ECan runs the regional civil defence that coordinates civil defence issues that cross district council boundaries. Shortly after the quake ECan’s Civil Defence HQ (called ECC – Group) had to move from the regional CD operations rooms in Kilmore St because some buildings around ECan may have become too unstable. We understand they then moved to the University of Canterbury. With the government declaring a national CD emergency the ECan CD HQ have joined the City Council District CD HQ (called the EOC) at the Art Gallery. They are joined there by a liaison team from National CD.

Ex ECan Cr Assigned to the Joint Civil Defence CommitteeCr Rik Tindall – See Your Councillors Page

Could Canterbury Blue/Green Hazardous Outbreak Be Traced to Akaroa?

22 February 2011

The Community and Public Health division of the Canterbury District Health Board have issued a health warning after potentially toxic blue-green algae (benthic cyanobacteria) were found in the Waipara at the Teviotdale Bridge. This is in addition to the warning already in place at Stringers Bridge. Blue / Green outbreaks are a well-known hazard to humans, animals and ecosystems alike.  The District Health Board  news release did not dentified the source of the outbreak.

The first place ECan in Exile would suggest checking for the source of this toxic blue/green outbreak is Akaroa. A blue/green incident occurred in that area last month.  Previous blue/green outbreaks have affected the very organisation, Environment Canterbury, that is now attempting to monitor this outbreak.
A major Canterbury blue/green outbreak in mid 2010 dissolved regional democracy in Canterbury. That incident is now so widespread that it is unlikely that it can be contained until 2013 unless beneficial Red Algae and the environmentally friendly  Green Algae species can be released sooner to mop up the blue/green free radicals.

However, the opportunity to release beneficial Red and Green Algae occurs, on average, only once every three years. The first opportunity for such a release comes later this year in late November and ECan in Exile suggests that all New Zealanders use their electoral voting power to ensure such a release.

On-Line Poll – Should ECan Staff Restructuring Stop Until the New CEO is on Board?

16 February 2011

We are increasingly concerned that the restructuring process being pushed through ECan will turn out to be another big waste of money and resources because the new CEO may well have a different idea for the direction of the organisation and so may undo or re-do the current exercise. Meanwhile we may very well lose some of our best and brightest ECan staffers at a time when we need them most.

We have heard little from this governments ECan commissioners on their strategy or opinion of the current staff restructure but we say it beggars belief that any Council governor worth their salt would think that the current exercise is a wise use of ratepayers money or precious intellectual resources of ECan.

What do you think – have your say on our on-line poll below:




More Redundancies From ECan Commissioners ‘No Redundancies’ Annual Plan

30 January 2011

In July last year (see article 5 July below)  we reported that Deputy Commissioner David Caygills call on local TV of ‘no redundancies’ under their annual plan would ring hollow to key staff who where being made redundant even as he was speaking. This trend has continued with seven key planning staff being rewarded for pulling out all the stops on ECans vital plans by being made redundant.  Judging by the many planning jobs being advertised by ECan recently the real reason  for these redunancies are more and more looking like removing anyone who is not a ‘yes-man’  or willing to be ‘men of straw’ for the governments ECan Commissioners and ECans top management.

ECan in Exile sources say that top management are scrambling to restructure their departments and offer up saving to satisfy the commissioners thirst for populist ACT Party inspired zero rate rises and to remove any staff who may present ‘inconvenient truths’ to the governments programme for ECan.

This raises serious issues for the value of any professional planning advice or evidence that will come from ECan in the future. Bodies like the Environment Court tend to take a dim view of expert evidence placed before them that has the smell of  being anything other than impartial, objective and independent.

ECan in Exile urges Commissioner Judge Peter Skelton to carefully review restructurings in the planning and expert areas of ECan to ensure that professional impartiality can be assured. Further we urge professional planning and environmental expert institutes and ECans unions to take an active interest in these restructurings to ensure that Canterbury citizens do not lose more good staff are not instead being foistered instead with more politically motivated  ‘Yes Men’ or ‘Men of Straw’.

More Deaths Likely If Clean Heat Programme Faces Annual Plan Axe

30 January 2011

ECan in Exile said today that it expected the governments ECan commissioners to further axe the life saving Clean Heat programmes in this years ECan annual plan and urged Canterbury citizens to support the programmes in this years plan hearings.

ECan in Exile spokeperson Helen Isra said the governments announcement will favour money interests of big business and its right wing mayoral supporters over the lives of vulnerable kiwis is likely to spur the governments ECan commissioners to further clean heat programme cuts.

Nationally, the air pollution toll at 1100 premature deaths is nearly three times the road toll.  This has been met by the government putting back requirements of councils to get on top of the problem by 7 years. ECan  in Exile says if such a response was made by the government to the road toll there would be a national outcry. This response shows the government cannot be trusted to protect the lives of the children and vunerable citizens, that are the biggest air pollution victims, and so citizens must make it very clear to local councils that air pollution deaths will no longer be tolerated.

ECan in Exile urges ECan citizens to stand up and be counted & strongly support Clean Heat Programmes in ECans upcoming annual plan. Click HERE for more info.

ECan Planner Redundancies at Odds with Creech Report

17 December

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”

To be removing  highly experienced planners, many of whom are the most experienced in the regions key water and air issues, while indicating that 10 planning vacancies are still to be filled from the restructuring beggers belief.

It also raises the question whether the Creech ‘fit for porpose’ 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 citizen 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 is the voice of NZ’s professional resource management institutes in the current debate. Ecan in Exile cannot recall hearing anything 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.

Does ECan Chair Understand Open Government?

16 December

The governments highly paid ECan Chair, Dame Margaret Bazley, seems to have demonstrated that the commissioners knowledge of  democratic open government may be sadly lacking.  In an article in the Press, about ECan CEO’s departure and intimated golden handshake, Dame Margaret said “the OIA (Official Information Act) response had not included papers outlining discussions because they had not been written ones.”

In a written comment to the article we said

We are very concerned that the governments ECan commissioners feel themselves able to withold discussions from OIA (Official Information) request just because they are not in writing. Official information includes information that has not been written down, so it is very worrying that such highly paid experts as the ECan commissioners chair seems to be unaware of such an important piece of public accountability law & practice.
Citizens wanting a guide on making OIA requests can find information on our webpage HERE:
The article citing OIA and non-written information is found in this article on the above webpage: “Media Article about using the LGOIMA & OIA”
There are also downloadable LGOIMA (Council OIA) forms on the same webpage.

Law Society Speaks Out Against Ministerial Dictatorships

11 November

In the wake of the The NZ Law Society speaking out on the worrying trend of the National led government to lightly bypass the rule of law, ECan in Exile is renewing its calls for stronger democratic safeguards.

The NZ Law Society has spoken out the worrying trend of the National led government lightly bypassing the rule of law, democratic processes and legal safeguards to pass laws that ECan in Exile says allows, in effect cabinet minister to become dictators.

Law Society President Jonathan Temm said that the society had a legal duty to uphold the rule of law it and takes its role very seriously and will not hesitate to speak out if it is threatened.

ECan in Exile says that the Law Society speaking out is a wake up call to all New Zealanders that their rights and democratic voice is under active threat by a government that seesm to have little regard for either. ECan in Exile repeats its previous calls for safeguards against government abuse of powers by making the NZ Bill of Rights superior law, including the right to local authority elections in the Bill of Rights Act and by strengthening the role of the governor general to refuse assent to law that is inconsistent with the NZ Bill of Rights Act or its principles.

Law Society President Jonathan Temm said that the society, under its duty to uphold the rule of law, had made public comment on the Environment Canterbury (Temporary Commissioners and Improved Water Management) Act 2010 and also the Canterbury Earthquake Response and Recovery Act 2010.

“Both pieces of legislation were passed under urgency as a means of managing situations where direct government action was seen as essential. The Society in no way attempted to comment on the Government’s policies or intent. What concerned us was the impact on the rule of law from the way in which the legislation was structured,” he says.

“Potential interference with existing court proceedings and removal of the right of access to the courts, along with reliance on restraint from government and public officials in the exercise of very broad powers were identified as threats to the rule of law.”

Read NZ Society’s full article HERE

ENDS

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ECan Commissioners ‘Retirement’ of CEO May Cost Ratepayers over $300,000 pa.

8 November

Investigations by ECan in Exile have revealed that the governments ECan Commissioners efforts to retire the ECan CEO Dr Bryan Jenkins may be set to cost ratepayers an extra $300,000 per annum for at least two years and further reduce ECans ability to honour its commitments to the Canterbury community.

The deal, which ECan in Exile understands the governments ECan commission Chair, Dame Margaret Bazley, has been working on for some months, provides for the ECan CEO to be transferred to a face-saving plum job at the University of Canterbury funded by ECan for two years at $350,000 pa for at least two years. In addition ECan will have to find approximately an extra $300,000 pa to pay the salary for the commissioners chosen replacement for Dr Jenkins.

ECan in Exile understands that in the weeks leading up to the announcement of the ‘resignation’ of the CEO there was a flurry of stealth activity between the governments ECan Commissioners and the University of Canterbury looking for ways to make an appointment without the usual on merit recruitment procedures and also between ECan senior staff looking for budget cuts that could be used to fund the some $700,000 that would be needed to fund the deal over two years. This extra funding drain is believed to be putting serious and unplanned for pressure on budgets already stretched by the commissioners refusal to properly fund programmes the community had been promised under ECans long-term community plan.

Meanwhile other ECan staff have been rewarded for their considerable effort in recent years with the news they are to be restructured by the governments ECan commissioners to make them ‘fit for purpose’. ECan in Exile understands University of Canterbury are not planning for any extra Chair positions for any displaced ECan staffers however.

ENDS


Is the Government Stacking the Deck on ECan Democracy?

9 Sept

Of late the signs have not been looking good: yet again Forest & Bird have had to complain that another of the vital water zone committees has been appointed but lacking sustainability & ecological expertise, ECan is Exile has its request for public release for individual payments to the government commissioners turned down and now questions have been raised about government ministers pre-editing the ECan commissioners professional reports prior to public release.

There is speculation that the common denominator in all of these matters is ‘under the radar’ referral of key ECan decisions to government ministers offices before reports are released or decisions made.

There are certainly worrying signs of concern within iwi circles around Canterbury that some reports of the Ngai Tahu ECan commissioner may have been subject to editing by the Local Government Ministers office. If this speculation has any basis in fact then this will be particularly galling given Minister Hides personal attitude to iwi representation at local government level and further could be seen as betrayal of the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi and the requirements on ECan under the Local Government Act to promote social and cultural community wellbeings.

Further, if this speculation is correct and the government is in fact interfering in professional reports from its commissioners, before they see the light of day, then Canterbrians will want to make it quite clear to Canterburys government MP’s that any further erosion of regional democracy and possible stacking of the democratic deck will not be tolerated.

Thanks to this government Cantabrians already have no regional electoral democratic checks and balances on information from within ECan, we have seen Cantabrians legal right to be heard on democracy planning denied by their commissioners and so having professional reports and decisions pre-edited by Wellington will be an intolerable slap in the face for Cantabrians.

ECan in Exiles own experience with referral of decions to ministerial level was of abrogation of the principles of open government. ECan in Exile had requested official information on individual Commissioners expenses and payments, in line with current public interest in holding publicly funded bodies and executives to finacial account by the electorate.

While commissioner expense information was forthcoming we were told that commissioner payments had been referred to the Ministers office, this despite the fact that, after the ECan councils replacement date, ECan paid the governments commissioners from its own internal budgets and so had access to the necessary information. In short we could see no valid reason why our request would need to be referred to the Minister.

Suspiciously, after the request had been at the Ministers office for 10 days ECan officers replied saying they were witholding the information, they said, to protect the privacy of natural persons (the commissioners), even though there was no problem previously finding out the salaries of the natural persons holding the office of ECan Chair, Councillors or CEO.

The current speculation and experiences will only serve to highlight the democracy issue at the local goverment elections coming up in October and at the parliamentry election due next year. Meanwhile, Cantabrians and citizens nationwide will be reflecting on who they can really trust with their democratic rights and which politicians have shown themselves to be willing to ‘walk the talk’ by embracing truly open government.

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ENDS

Cantabrians can join ECan in Exile HERE to get updates of our latest news, issues and ways to help uphold and restore regional democracy to Canterbury.
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HURUNUI MORATORIUM UNSUSTAINABLE – ECAN IN EXILE

21 July

ECan in Exile has labelled the breaking news that the Government has approved it’s unelected ECan commissioners using special powers to block any water being taken from the Hurunui River for the next 15 months as undemocratic and unsustainable in the long-term.

The pro-democracy organisation commented that although breathing space for proper consideration of a sustainable management of the Hurunui is welcome, it did not need unelected commissioners to achieve it. The group contends that Environment Canterbury and its CEO had been seeking better legislative water management tools since at least 2005 yet the government saw fit to only bestow these potentially draconian tools to people who are not democratically accountable to the people of Canterbury.

“Without a truly representative democracy these closed-door decisions cannot be a long-term sustainable position simply because they do not take the community will along with them. This decision will only add Canterbury’s responsible rural citizens to the growing list of opponents of this anti-democratic government.” spokesperson Helen Isra said.

Open and democratic decision-making is likely to be both a local and central government election issue with CCC mayoral candidate Jim Anderton saying recently,”What Christchurch needs is more openness, better decisions and more action”.

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ENDS

ECan News Release: Click HERE

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IT’S HARD TO KEEP A GOOD ONE DOWN – ECAN CRS STAND AGAIN!

19 July 2010ECan Councillors Standing for Office

It’s hard to keep the good ones down, so the saying goes, and it is certainly true of our elected ECan councillors with over half of the councillors, other than those who were intending to retire, putting their names forward as councillor or mayoral candidates in the upcoming local government elections.

“The level of commitment to their communities, shown by the willingness of our elected ECan councillors to stand for councils, gives a lie to the Creech reports inference that our regional councillors lacked the commitment and cohesion to serve their region,” spokesperson Helen Isra.

“If Nick Smith was wary of the outcome of ECans 2010 democratic elections he will be positively wringing his hands now that good regional governance experience on both local and regional issues will be available to shore up Canterbury democracy in the very councils who conspired to remove our regional democratic voice. The re- election of our former ECan councillors will be a great opportunity for Cantabrians to send this government and their collaborators a clear message that they will not stand for the removal of their regional democratic voice and our elected councillors.” Isra said.

ECan in Exile is also asking the electorate to think very carefully before re-electing mayors and outspoken councillors who advocated for the removal of the our regional democratic voice. According to ECan in Exile the question each voter should ask themselves is: Have those sitting mayors and councillors demonstrated they can be trusted with the precious gem of our Canterbury democracy?

Lately the sitting Christchurch City Council mayor, who was vocal in support of the removal of the ECan council and regional elections, has moved to limit damage to his own re-election chances by calling for elections at ECan by 2012.

Mayoral candidates include: Cr Rik Tindall (CCC) , Cr Jo Kane (Waimakariri DC) and possibly Cr Angus McKay (Ashburton DC)

Council candidates so far are: Cr Rik Tindall , Sir Kerry Burke, Jane Demeter (CCC); Cr Angus McKay (Ashburton DC).

Community Board candidates so far are: Cr Rik Tindall and Cr David Sutherland (CCC Community Boards)

Elected ECan councillors standing for the upcoming local elections are shown with a ballot box symbol ECan Councillors standing for election Thumnail sizeon the YOUR COUNCILLORS page.

Enrol to vote: HERE

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ENDS

Cantabrians can join ECan in Exile HERE to get updates of our latest news, issues and ways to help uphold and restore regional democracy to Canterbury

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ARE ECAN COMMISSIONERS DOUBLE DIPPING?ECan Commissioners Double Dipping ?

14 July 2010 STOP PRESS: ECAN CHAIR AIR TRAVEL CLAIM OVER $800.

The governments unelected ECan commissions have cost the Canterbury ratepayers over $13,000 in claimed expenses and extra payments, in addition to $65,000 in daily fees, during their first month in office, raising the questions of whether the commissioners may be perieved to be double dipping while council programmes and staff are being cut back.

Official information obtained by pro-democracy group, ECan in Exile, shows that in their first month office the commissioners racked up nearly $80,000 in daily fees, claimed expenses, in-kind provisions and other costs to Canterbury regional ratepayers.

ECan in Exile obtained the figures following high public interest in politicians expenses and have announced that they will continue to seek and publish the information monthly.

ECan in Exile believes the commissioners should not be claiming expenses in addition to the high consultant rate daily fees they have been awarded by the government.

“At their daily fee pay rate, almost three times the pro rata salary rate of elected councillors, commissioners should not morally, in our opinion, be claiming additional expenses. Consultant pay rates are higher than salaried rates because consultants meet their own overheads, travel and office expenses. We say to be paid consultants rates while claiming expenses and taking in-kind provisions could risk raising the perception of double dipping,” spokesperson Helen Isra said today.

“At this time when ECan is cutting budgets and making skilled staff redundant we would expect the commissioners to show similar constraint in their own remuneration, especially when citizens are being rated to fund this but without the checks and balances of elected representation,” Isra said.

Lately ECan made it’s much respected sole Energy Policy Analyst redundant and commissioners announced cuts to the Christchurch clean heat programme.

ECan in Exile has published the expense information on their websites uprated Accountability section and included a poll so that Cantabrians can have their say on the issue.

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ENDS

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ECAN COMMISSIONERS ‘NO REDUNDANCIES’ CRY RINGS HOLLOW.

5 July 2010

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.

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Update: 7 July. The Governments ECan Deputy Commissioner, David Caygill, responds:

I acknowledge that there is a redundancy process taking place; however this is not a consequence of the Annual Plan decisions.

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ENDS

Former ECan elected councillors on the Air Quality and Energy Portfolio Committee can be contacted via the ECan in Exile Your Councillors page

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WILL ECAN FEES HIKES CLAW BACK REDUCED RATES RISE?

21 June 2010

With the ink not yet dry on the ECan commissioners controversial reduced rates rise, moves may be underway to recover rates as fee rises and charges for ECan related services.

With rural regional canterbury consent holders already incensed at the decision by the governments Environment Canterbury commissioners to significantly increase resource consent monitoring fees, it looks like public transport could be the next in line for a rates claw back, according to ECan in Exile sources.

ECan in Exile is concerned that hikes in the regional councils fees and charges revealed so far may just be the begining of a rates increase in disguise.

“Disguising a rates increase as a multitude of hikes in the councils fees and charges would amount to robbing Peter to pay the apalling,” says ECan in Exile spokesperson Helen Isra.

Reporter, Guy Williams of the Timaru edition of community newspaper The Courier, reported recently that Timaru bus fares are under consideration at the governments ECan commissioners next council meeting set down for the 24 June. The reason given for the possible Timaru fare hikes is the governments GST rise and this governments requirement to recovery a higher proportion of public transport costs from fare payers. However, ECan in Exile says it will require considerable vigilance to ensure fee increases are not just a rates rise in disguise.

“That vigilance and oversight is now sadly lacking since elected councillors were dismissed last month,” said ECan in Exile spokesperson Helen Isra.

Isra commented that they were confident that there was a balanced sustainable oversight of public transport, under the former elected council, with one of the regions most experienced councillors, Cr Carol Evans as Chair and passionate rural voices such Cr Bronwyn Murray with portfolio oversight. Isra doubted the commissioners could match their experience and community resolution and cited that already Commissioner Tom Lambie has had to be called in at the last-minute to chair the key funding body, the Regional Land Transport Committee, after Chair Rex Williams pulled out due to ‘prior commitments.’

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ENDS

Also see: http://www.ecan.govt.nz/news-and-notices/news/pages/draft-annual-plan-water-management-a-funding-priority.aspx

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ECAN IN EXILE CALLS FOR BOOKS TO BE OPENED ON COMMISSIONERS FEES AND EXPENSES

21 June 2010

ECan in Exile moved recently to get greater transparency in the governments appointed environment Canterbury commissioners with the lodging of urgent official information requests seeking details of the unelected commissioners fees, expenses and costs to Canterbury ratepayers.

ECan in Exile spokesperson, Helen Isra said they lodged the request after hearing persistent rumours that the commissioners were being paid significant expenses over and above their considerable daily fees, being provided rental cars and accommodation at ratepayers expense and requiring an expensive refit of Environment Canterbury offices for commissioners which may have also resulted in extra costs as staff had to be accommodated elsewhere.

“There is considerable public interest in the expenses and costs of elected representatives and we think the same transparency should be required of the governments ratepayer funded unelected appointees at Environment Canterbury,” ECan in Exile spokesperson Helen Isra said today.

“As we have already had the key democratic principle of no taxation without representation denied Cantabrians and seen key programmes such as the clean heat programme cut by the governments commissioners, we think there is a need for an increased level of accountability to ensure that ratepayers money is not being wasted on featherbedding for the governments commissioners,” Isra said.

Helen Isra commented that at $900/day a commissioner is getting an estimated pro-rata $150,000 a year compared to just over $50,000 for the former elected regional councillors.

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ENDS

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ECAN IN EXILE MOVES TO DEFEND CANTERBURY OPEN GOVERNMENT

18 June 2010

ECan in Exile moved today to increase the transparency from the governments ECan commissioners with the lodging of three specific official information requests relating to the Environment Canterbury commissioners controversial annual plan hearing and decision making process.

“We have lodged 3 urgent requests for information relating to the Commissioner not hearing democracy submissions as we have indications that the matter may have to be urgently referred to the Ombudsman to in order to defend Cantabrians freedom of speech,” spokesperson Helen Isra said.

ECan in Exile has been vocal on the ECan commissioners annual plan hearing and decision-making processes, concerned that some submitters may have been illegally denied submission speaking rights and the annual plan may have been amended by the commissioners without the proper authority.

“Our reading of the Local Government Act , backed by the office of the auditor general, is that refusing to hear submitters is illegal and it was compounded when the commissioners failed to put the matter right when Wigram MP publicly raised the issue. This means that up to over half of the submitters may have had their democratic rights illegally eroded further by the governments commissioners,” Isra said

ECan is Exile has been calling for annual plan hearings to be re-opened on the democracy issue and at least one Christchurch residents association is believed to be seriously considering lodging a complaint over the issue with the ombudsman or auditor general.

The governments commissioners are expected to confirm their annual plan decisions and set the annual regional rate at their next council meeting on the 24 June.

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ENDS

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MP’s SEEK ANSWERS ON CREECH, CANTERBURY IRRIGATION, GOVERNMENT LINKS

15 June 2010

Todays ‘Questions for Oral Answers’ at Parliament revealed an interesting exchange between Christchurch Labour MP Brendon Burns and the Prime Minister. At issue was whether there were links between ECan reviewer Wyatt Creech and canterbury irrigation & resource management issue breifing given by ministers of the Crown. This briefing was apparently being sought 11 months before Wyatt Creech was appointed as an independent reviewer on the ECan issue.

We reproduce it here, from parliaments Hansard record, so you can be the judge:

Brendon Burns: Was the Prime Minister briefed on the 20 December 2008 Water Infrastructure Forum in Christchurch promoting irrigation for Canterbury, attended by three of his senior Ministers, and was he aware that one Wyatt Creech was also briefed about that forum via David Carter’s political adviser within 2 days of it being held?

Hon JOHN KEY: I have no recollection of whether I was briefed on that forum.

Brendon Burns: Can the Prime Minister explain why Mr Creech, 11 months before he was appointed as an independent consultant to head an independent review of Environment Canterbury, was taking an intense interest via a Minister’s office in the same Canterbury irrigation issues as the Prime Minister?

Hon JOHN KEY: I have no ministerial responsibility for Wyatt Creech.

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question was about something that happened via a Minister’s office. My submission to you is that saying that someone has no responsibility for Wyatt Creech, when clearly the Prime Minister does have responsibility for all his Ministers’ offices and the briefings they give, is not a satisfactory answer.

Hon Gerry Brownlee: The question was whether the Prime Minister could explain why Mr Creech was taking an interest. Clearly it is not his role to explain why Mr Creech was taking an interest. Mr Creech, of course, is a prominent New Zealander who has a great interest in these matters. It is not unreasonable, at all.

Mr SPEAKER: On this occasion I will enable Brendon Burns, if he wants to, to rephrase the question to try to bring it within the Prime Minister’s responsibility, rather than just losing a question. He does not have to; it is just if he would like to.

Brendon Burns: Could the Prime Minister say why Mr Creech, 11 months before he was appointed as an independent consultant heading an independent review of Environment Canterbury, was taking an intense interest via a Minister’s office in the same issues as the Prime Minister was taking?

Hon JOHN KEY: No.

Brendon Burns: I seek the leave of the House to table an Official Information Act document, which shows Wyatt Creech wanting a “comprehensive picture” of Canterbury irrigation and Resource Management Act issues from David Carter’s office—

Mr SPEAKER: Can we have the source of the document?

Brendon Burns: It is an Official Information Act request to the Minister’s office. It is an email exchange.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is no objection.

  • Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.

Read all todays Q&A on this subject click here>> NZ Parliament – Questions For Oral Answer 15 June 2010

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ENDS

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CAN YOU HEAR US NOW? – THOUSANDS OF CANTABRIANS TURN OUT FOR DEMOCRACY

14 June 2010

Over 3000 Cantabrians braved a cold southerly in a shady cathedral square yesterday to send a message to this government and its unelected commissioners that Cantabrians were not impressed with the loss of their regional democratic voice, the commissioners lack of transparency and the unsustainable direction of their resource management.

“This governments unelected ECan commissioners may have illegally denied over half the annual submitters their speaking rights on democracy but they can’t help but hear this message loud and clear – Cantabrians want them gone, and democracy and transparency restored,'” ECan In Exile spokesperson Helen Isra said today.

Earlier this month the ECan commissioners controversially wrote to 274 of the 430 ECan annual plan submitters saying they would not hear their submissions on democracy issues, as the government had pre-empted any outcome, a move that ECan in Exile says directly breaches local government law and breaks the legal consultation principle of not pre-judging issues.

Environment Minister, Nick Smith, asked Cantabrians to give the commissioners a chance. In response ECan in Exile said they had no problem with giving the commissioners a chance and that all the National led government needed to do was to restore ECan’s October regional elections, give the councillors the tools they had been long asking for to manage the water issue and invite their commissioners to stand for office on the issues they believed in.

Attendees at the family friendly event, organised by Our Water Our Vote, ranged across all age groups, socio-economic groupings and political leanings and included local MPs, city councillors as well as some key former ECan councillors. A cairn, made from canterbury river stones, was constructed in the square that included an inspcription that cantabrians wanted it to remain until and elected regional democracy is restored.

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Elected Representatives Who Joined with Cantabrians at the Event Included:

Former ECan Councillors: Sir Kerry Burke, Jane Demeter, Jo Kane, Eugenie Sage, David Sutherland & Rik Tindall. Click HERE to see your elected ECan councillors contact details.

CCC Councillors: Helen Broughton, Yani Johanson & Chrissie Williams

MP’s: Brendon Burns, Ruth Dyson & Russell Norman

Another pro-democracy public participation event is currently being organised. Please bookmark ECan In Exile (Ctrl + D)and check back soon for more details.

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ENDS

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ECAN COMMISSION SACRIFICES HEALTHY HOMES IN CYNICAL POPULARITY GRAB?

9 June 2010

“Warm healthy homes, the future viability of public transport and smaller farming enterprises are being sacrificed by the ECan commissioners in a cynical popularity grab under their first annual plan rating,” said ECan In Exile spokesperson Helen Isra today.

“The commissioners are essentially robbing Peter to pay The Appalling while trying to buy public popularity with a cynical slight of hand rate movement,” Isra said

The government appointed commissioners, who are set to finalise this years ECan annual plan later this month, released their decisions on the proposed plan submissions yesterday. The decisions show that ECan’s flagship warm homes scheme is being cut back for Christchurch ratepayers, public transport is funding is being cut forcing them to draw on their reserves to maintain services and last years council decision to hold off charging rural consent holders a substantial increase in monitoring charges has been reversed to fund the controversial water strategy and facilitate a reduced rate movement.

The annual plan submission hearings themselves have been controversial with 274 of the 430 submitters being sent a letter by the commissioners saying they would not be heard on the democracy issue in what democracy groups say is an illegal move designed to smother dissent and further gag Canterbury’s democratic voice.

“The unprecedented cuts Christchurch urban clean heat incentives seems to be another example of the disregard the commissioners appear to have for Cantabrians legal rights and due process,” Isra said “The auditor general has said that changes to the communities draft annual plans should only by made as a result of direct submission and if the commission cannot show any such submissions then it is questionable whether the slashing of the clean heat subsidies for struggling christchurch families is actually legal.”

“We consider the governments unpopular commissioners are cynically attempting to buy public approval with a reduced rate increase, but it is not the $900 a day commissioners that will be paying, it’s the health of hardworking Christchurch families and the viability of smaller farming enterprises in our rural heartland,” Isra said

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ENDS

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IT’S THE PUTTING RIGHT THAT COUNTS – CALLS FOR ECAN ANNUAL PLAN HEARINGS TO BE RE- OPENED

9 June 2010

ECan in Exile, responding to the release of government’s ECan commissioners decisions on annual plan submissions, is alleging that the ECan commissioners where acting illegally when they wrote to 274 of the 430 ECan annual plan submitters saying they would not be heard on the democracy issues and is calling for hearings to be re-opened.

“To quote a famous customer focused businessman, Alan Martin ‘It’s the putting right that counts’ and that’s what the governments appointed ECan commissioners need to do correct their illegal actions of denying 274 of the 430 annual plan submitters their democratic speaking rights ,” ECan In Exile spokesperson Helen Isra said today.

“The commissioners do not have carte blanche to trample on all of Cantabrians democratic rights, the local government law says people must be given a chance to speak to their annual plan submissions, if they want to, but the commissioners have in effect denied 274 submitters that right and this calls into question the legality of their decision making process and the annual plan itself.” Isra said.

ECan in Exile understands that unless the commissioners promptly move to put the matter right by re-opening hearings some of the denied submitters are currently considering whether to urgently refer the matter to Ombudsman and seek a delay to the ECan annual plan adoption set down for later this month.

Although an ECan spokeswoman previously said commissioners had decided not to hear verbal submissions on elected representation because the legislation has superseded the decision-making process, ECan in Exile contends the commissioners simply do not have the right to cherry pick what they will or will not hear and in any case have a number of viable options to respond to Cantabrians concerns, including the power to remit or postpone rates, that do not offend the recent law that sacked the elected regional council and denied Cantabrians regional voting rights.

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ENDS

About ECan In Exile

ECan In Exile is a new organisation established to enable Cantabrians to exercise their regional democratic rights, monitor the performance of the government appointed commissioners and provide citizens with information about their rights under local government legislation.
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ECan in Exile Official Information Form Helps Citizens

2 June 2010

“Canterbury citizens have another resource to help uphold their regional democracy with the on-line release of a form to help citizens obtain official information from Environment Canterbury'” ECan in Exile spokesperson Helen Isra said today.

“The form has been provided to help hold the governments unelected commissioners to public account especially as citizens are finding the commissioners may be breaching due process and their hotline is not providing the independent constituent services of the former regional councillors,” Isra said.

The form sets out the main requirements for requesting official information of the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act. As well as providing an easier request format, the form has embedded weblinks to on-line guides and the applicable official information law.

The form can be found on the ECan in Exile Democracy page, under the Help & Resources heading: HERE

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Ends

Contact: Helen Isra, E: ecaninexile@gmail.com W: https://ecaninexile.wordpress.com

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ECan in Exile Rockets Up the Charts

27 May 2010

ECan in Exile is now the leading independent ‘go to’ site for Cantabrians searching for authoritative resources on their Canterbury regional democracy,” says spokesperson Helen Isra.

Since launching at the beginning of May the ECan in Exile has been attracting up to 200 visitors per day and is now third on Google for the search term “ECan”, pointing to its growing popularity among Cantabrians.

ECan In Exile is a new organisation established to enable Cantabrians to exercise their regional democratic rights, monitor the performance of the government appointed commissioners and provide citizens with information about their rights under local government legislation.

Recent activity of ECan in Exileincludes empowering ECan annual plan submitters who have been denied hearing speaking rights by providing them with information on their legal rights and practical steps on how to ensure their voice is heard.

“We are all about empowering and practically enabling Cantabrians to continue to exercise their regional democracy. This government may have removed our elected regional councillors and voting rights but they cannot remove the exercise of our own democracy, unless we let them,” says Isra

From the ECan in Exile site visitors can: contact their elected regional councillors; get on-line help with regional issues and help promote Canterbury’s regional democracy.

To find ECan in Exile google search ecan site:.nz, ecaninexile or ecan in exile.

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Ends

Contact: Helen Isra, E: ecaninexile@gmail.com W: https://ecaninexile.wordpress.com

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ECan Commissioners Hearing Decision Unwise

21 May 2010

“ECan in Exile” is dismayed at reports that ECan commissioners will deny some submitters the opportunity to speak to parts of their submissions at next week’s hearings on the regional council’s draft annual plan.

ECan In Exile is a new organisation established to enable Cantabrians to exercise their regional democratic rights, monitor the performance of the government appointed commissioners and provide citizens with information about their rights under local government legislation.
“Not hearing or considering some submitters’ views would contradict the whole basis for community involvement in local government set out in the Local Government Act. It also appears to exceed the commissioners’ powers under the Environment Canterbury (Temporary Commissioners and Improved Water Management) Act 2010, ” ECan in Exile spokesperson Helen Isra said.
“Hearing citizens’ views, however unpalatable they may be to commissioners personally, is not only legally required but also good practice if government is to be the servant of the people rather than its master, ” Helen Isra said.
“The commissioners’ contention that the ECan Act has pre-empted any decision on the “What do you think ?” Annual Plan question ignores the value of them listening to ratepayers’ views on having non-elected commissioners strike the rates. Being informed by community views should help them make careful decisions in finalising the budget for 2010/11.
“The commissioners appear to see themselves as being answerable primarily to government rather than Canterbury ratepayers who pay their excessive meeting fees and fund the council’s work, ” she said.
“Not considering or hearing submissions on this issue would be acting in bad faith given the time and effort which people have put into writing their submission.”
“As the then Minister of Local Government, Sandra Lee, noted in said in her speech introducing the Local Government Bill to Parliament in 2002 :
“Mr Speaker this Bill is, above all, about “empowerment”. “Not as some might imagine, the empowerment of councils to exert greater influence and authority over their electors, but rather, empowering New Zealanders within their local communities to exercise ever greater control over their lives and over the environments in which they live.”
ECan in Exile calls on the government’s unelected commissioners to live up to the spirit of the local government legislation and hear submitters on all of the “What do you think” questions.
ECan in Exile believes that the commissioners, like councillors, not only have a legal obligation to hear submitters’ views but can also take account of submitters’ views that have merit. The hearing process itself is valuable in that it often presents ideas that may not have otherwise occurred to commissioners or ECan staff .

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ECan in Exile

Background

The specific sections of the Local Government Act 2002 which the commissioners’ decision appears to breach are:

Section 95 – Annual Plan
  • (1) A local authority must prepare and adopt an annual plan for each financial year.

    (2) A local authority must use the special consultative procedure* in adopting an annual plan.

    • *Special consultative procedure is in S. 83 of the Local Government Act 2002

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S. 83 LGA 2002 (1) (h)

Where this Act or any other enactment requires a local authority to use or adopt the special consultative procedure, that local authority must— …..

(h) ensure that any person who makes a submission on the proposal within that period—

(i) is sent a written notice acknowledging receipt of that person’s submission; and

(ii) is given a reasonable opportunity to be heard by the local authority (if that person so requests); and

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Environment Canterbury Temporary Commissioners and Improved Water Management) Act 2010

Exclusions from LGA 2002 provisions are contained in sections 25 & 45 – they do not appear to excempt the commission from S.95 provisions or S.83 LGA provisions in relation to the annual plan or S14 (1) (a) provisions in relation to open and transparent principles relating to local government…

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Section 14: Principles relating to local authorities

(1) In performing its role, a local authority must act in accordance with the following principles:

(a) A local authority should:

(i) Conduct its business in an open, transparent, and democratically accountable manner; and

(ii) Give effect to its identified priorities and desired outcomes in an efficient and effective manner.

(b) A local authority should make itself aware of, and should have regard to, the views of all of its communities; and

(c) When making a decision, a local authority should take account of:

(i) The diversity of the community, and the community’s interests, within its district or region; and

(ii) The interests of future as well as current communities; and

(iii) The likely impact of any decision on each aspect of well being referred to in section 10:

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Among the tools that ECan in Exile think commissioners have in their democratic kit to consider submissions, in addition to making rules and regulations, are:

  • Power to advocate a course or outcome to central government
  • Power to commission investigations, research and reports
  • Power to identify and sponsor stakeholders
  • Provision of information and education
  • Power to grant rates relief
    • For instance they may decide grant rates relief to citizens not directly represented by the commissioners
  • Service delivery options including delivery of more effective liaison between commissioners and citizens
    • For instance ECan councillors could be resourced as a liaison committee between commissioners and citizens

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Taking ‘You’ Out of Environment Canterbury – Literally !

19 May 2010

Have you ever noticed that it sometimes the subtlest of changes that speaks the loudest. Well, here at ECan in Exile we’ve noticed that YOU have been not only denied your democratic voice and voting rights but also literally removed from Environment Canterbury. The subtle change is to Environment Canterbury’s logo which used to run ‘ Environment Canterbury Your Regional Council‘ but it now just reads ‘ Environment Canterbury Regional Council‘.

Spot the difference (click above for full size image)

Is this a case of honesty in advertising or perhaps just the usual inclination of new marketing bods to change the brand to show they are on top of the company image?

If it’s the former it is perhaps an ominous portent of things to come, if the latter it is very poor timing indeed and will add to the already high cost of the undemocratic changes at your (oops) their regional council as all the old branded materials are inevitably trashed and updated to the new regime.

ECan in Exile

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Commissioners Hotline a Cold Shoulder?

10 May 2010

Reacting to Cantabrians challenge for commissioners to properly fulfil their responsibilities and under take constituency work, this governments ECan commissioners have recently advertised commissioner hotline numbers and email address. However, some who have tried the system believe it is not a confidential hotline to the commissioners at all but merely goes back to the ECan bureaucracy via its customer call centre.

What can you do:

  • Try the commissioner hotline or email address, noting the time and date of your call/email, and ask for a personal phone call from a commissioner to reply
  • Note how long it takes for a reply and
    • note whether it is a personal reply from a commissioner or just an official acknowledgement
    • note how long it takes to get a one on one reply from a commissioner
    • ask any commissioner who replies what constituency area they have been assigned to and whether they live in that area
    • ask any commissioner who replies for their personal home phone/mobile numbers & personal ECan email address (format should be first name.surname@ecan.govt.nz) or another outside personal email address
  • Please feel free to report your findings by email, please put “Hot Line-Cold” in the subject line: Click Here

Here’s what one commentator said about the Commissioner hotline:

FREE SPEECH SMOTHERED AT ECAN

Cantabrians regional voice is falling on not only deaf ears but firmly stopped up ears. Friends are reporting that the Commissioners 0800 number and email just seems to go back to ECan customer services lines.

These guys just don’t get it, when someone wants to talk to their reps it’s often because they are having problems navigating city hall, the last thing they need is to be pushed back into the official labyrinth.

Also I heard that and that a mayoral candidate had his speaking request before the first commissioners council meeting turned down on bureaucratic procedural points by the commissioners.

What will be next: a call centre in the Philippines to keep the commissioners at arm’s length from us Cantabrians? Endless phone button pushing,’your call is important to us’ recorded messages and inane musak?

What we want and what we need is the personal touch on the end of the phone, we need to know which commissioner is assigned to each constituent area and their home & mobile numbers, we want a rep who will come and speak with our groups, one who will come out for the street meeting….what we need is our elected reps back in charge or at least in the loop as liaison between the commissioners and the ECan constituents.

In the meantime what do we get? a one-armed security guard posted at our council chamber and the cold shoulder from the commission.

I join the call of Cantabrians for our regional councillors to continue their mandate as voluntary councillors and become ECan in Exile. See: http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO1004/S00358.htm

– comment to voxy article Wed 5 may 2010

Article Link: http://www.voxy.co.nz/politics/first-public-meeting-environment-canterbury-commissioners-powhiri/5/47485

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