Hansard and Journals

Hansard (debates)

Environment Canterbury (Transitional Governance Arrangements) Bill — In Committee

[Sitting date: 05 April 2016. Volume:712;Page:17. Text is subject to correction.]

Environment Canterbury (Transitional Governance Arrangements) Bill

In Committee

Part 1 Preliminary provisions

Dr MEGAN WOODS (Labour—Wigram): I am happy to take a call on Part 1 of this bill to spell out why it is that Labour will not, cannot, and will never support this legislation. Part 1 of the bill, which contains the preliminary provisions of this bill—that is, clauses 3 through 7—actually contains some pretty important elements of this legislation.

First and foremost is the purpose clause of this legislation, where I would like to turn my attention. This is, of course, the part of the bill that tells us what it is going to do. Clause 3 says that “The purpose of this Act is to provide governance arrangements for the Canterbury Regional Council that will—(a) operate during the 2016 to 2019 local authority election-cycle period;”. But it is subclause (2) that I would like to turn my attention first of all, where it says: “To this end, this Act—(a) replaces the Environment Canterbury (Temporary Commissioners and Improved Water Management) Act 2010; and (b) provides for a new governing body for the Canterbury Regional Council comprising a mix of elected and appointed members;”. This is, of course, what the Minister for the Environment euphemistically refers to as a mixed model of democracy. This, of course, is a Minister who thinks democracy is a little bit too risky and is something that we, as elected members, should exercise caution on before allowing it back into any part of our country.

The first question that I would like Nick Smith, the Minister in the chair, to address is an issue that was raised by officials in the regulatory impact statement. It is around the consultation document that lies behind the piece of legislation that preceded it. Why was it that it went out and really gave only a fait accompli of this one model, with there being a range of options that were not canvassed in terms of what the future of Canterbury would hold?

This is something that submitters on the bill raised. In particular, the Christchurch City Council, in both its submission on the discussion document that preceded this legislation and its written and oral submissions on the legislation before the Local Government and Environment Committee, raised particular questions about why it was that this is the path the Minister chose to go down and said that it was only one option. Treasury, of course, found the need to raise questions about this in the regulatory impact statement and said that it could not give the kind of advice it would otherwise if that had been practised differently.

So I am looking forward to hearing the Minister give us an explanation of why it was that only this single option was put forward in the discussion document, because it was not like the Minister did not know this was coming. It had been nearly 3 years since he had last cancelled elections in Canterbury, and he had had plenty of time to plan for the next phase and what came next. So that is in the purpose statement, and I would like to hear from the Minister.

I would also like to then turn my attention to clause 6 in Part 1 of this legislation, which is the clause that deals with the repeal of this legislation. It is actually only a few days after the sixth anniversary of when the Minister first sacked our elected representative regional council in Canterbury and replaced it with Crown appointees. When that council was first sacked in 2010 there were a lot of statements made in the media, and the Prime Minister was even moved to make some statements to say that it might be as late as 2013 before Canterbury could have representative democracy back in its region. But did that happen? No, it did not. What happened before the expiration of the 2010 legislation is, of course, the Minister just put in place another piece of legislation that extended the Crown appointees over elected representatives in the region of Christchurch.

So we have absolutely no faith that the repeal date of this legislation will, in fact, in essence, be what is stated in clause 6 of the bill. When the bill states that it is repealed on the close of the resumption day, we know that behind the scenes there have been moves by various Government agencies to make the situation that the Minister is putting into place permanent. We know, through Official Information Act requests, that the Ministry for Primary Industries was lobbying, asking that the situation where the Crown appoints half the regional councillors, in the case of Canterbury, be made permanent. I would like to hear from the Minister, in the Committee stage of this legislation, an absolute assurance to the people of Canterbury—should National still be in Government, but that will not be the case, because we will be able to take care of that, but more on that later—that in the Minister’s mind this is the last piece of Draconian legislation that takes away democratic rights from the people of Canterbury.

As we get more into the substantive parts of this legislation, in Part 2, we will talk more fully about what some of the problems are. But I want to know from the Minister that this is what he means this time. When you read through the documents, prior to the discussion documents being issued, I have no faith. I have no faith that in the Minister’s mind this is the end of the road. We have no cause to have faith in Canterbury, because we have had our votes stolen twice—not only in 2010 but by the subsequent legislation that came into play for the 2013 election.

At the time when votes were first taken away, there were jokes going around. Will Canterbury or Fiji be the first to have democratic elections? Well, the Minister can be proud to say he is presiding over a region that is standing firm and not returning to democracy. What is being proposed and defined in Part 1, in clause 4, “Interpretation”, in no way represents a return to democracy. The Minister seems to think he can be a little bit democratic, in the way that you might like to be a little bit pregnant. But a return to democracy means giving Cantabrians the right to elect their regional councillors. This legislation does not do that. It does not return Canterbury to what the rest of the country enjoys, and that is a democratically elected regional council.

The Minister needs to justify this, and I look forward to the Minister taking a call to justify this, because he has failed to do so to this date. There is simply no justification for this. The kinds of arguments that we have heard put up—that democracy is a little bit risky. The people who elected this Minister might like to be a little bit afraid that their elected representatives considered the system of representation under which he is elected is risky.

I am sure we will get into those debates more fully, in a more substantive part of this bill—the idea that this has to be done for the good of Canterbury. We will have a discussion about water quality in Canterbury, and we will see that in the 6 years since the commissioners have been in place, we have seen a decline in water quality in our region. I look forward to hearing from the Minister what the justifications are, why he never went to the people of Canterbury with a broader set of proposals, and an assurance that, in his mind, this is the end of the road. Thank you.

EUGENIE SAGE (Green): Tēnā koe, Mr Chair. This bill, the Environment Canterbury (Transitional Governance Arrangements) Bill, is an abominable bill, and the Green Party will continue to strongly oppose it. One of the first things that a Green Party in Government next year would do is repeal the bill and restore a fully elected regional council to Canterbury.

When the Minister in the chair, the Hon Nick Smith, stands up to speak on the bill, I am sure we will hear a lot of cant and misinformation about the state of Environment Canterbury prior to his axing the regional councillors. He did it again in question time today. He talked about there being no red zones. Well, Minister, there were red zones and the elected regional council was in the process of reviewing the resource consents—the allocation of water takes from groundwater in those zones. Minister, there was already a Canterbury Water Management Strategy because it had been developed by elected councillors and the strategy finalised, before you axed them. There was already a natural resources regional plan, which although not operative was in a proposed state and was picked up by the appointed commissioners a couple of months after they were appointed.

I would like to explore in Part 1 the relationship between the Local Government Act and the bill, because clause 7 talks about the relationship between the Local Electoral Act and the Resource Management Act and this bill. The purpose of the Local Government Act is to provide for democratic and effective local government. Democratic local government is an important check on the power of the executive. It is a legitimate expectation in our society that we should be able to elect people at the local and regional levels to represent us, to make decisions about the rates that we pay, and how those rates are spent. There is $80 million - odd of rates in Environment Canterbury. But the second-class model that this bill provides, with seven elected councillors and six appointed members, means that nearly half of the people around the table will not be accountable to Cantabrians for the decisions they are making about the spending of taxes, in the form of rates. That is not democratic.

The purpose in this bill is not about improving democracy; it is mechanistic. It continues to deprive Cantabrians of a fully elected council. As one submitter, John Summers, said, it substitutes and provides a cheap fairground consolation prize with this notion of being able to elect only seven councillors. As Mr Summers said, history shows that power is addictive, not readily relinquished. The only bill we should be talking about today should be complete democracy, not this watered-down version that the Government is bringing to us, because by removing that fully elected council, we are removing a check on the power of central government.

Many submitters commented on this. The Law Society noted that it removed that underlying relationship between the citizen and the State at the local level by removing that accountability to ratepayers. Associate Professor Bronwyn Hayward, the head of the department of political science and international relations at the University of Canterbury, commented in her submission that this bill was implementing a form of governance that Canterbury University teaches students about in regard to developing economies where governance is at risk of corruption, gerrymandering, and undue influence on the democratic process.

This National Government should be ashamed that it is putting in place a regime in Canterbury that applies absolutely nowhere else in New Zealand. Even in Kaipara, where you had a $50 million to $60 million blowout in spending by the Kaipara District Council, and commissioners being appointed—this year, citizens in Kaipara will get the chance to elect their local council. Why do we have this mixed model, the second-class democracy that the Government is imposing on the region? Well, it is because of water—the fact that 60 percent of the water allocated for irrigation in New Zealand is used in Canterbury. This very partisan bill is enabling the Government to keep its fingers in the till and ensure that water management plans in Canterbury are amenable to irrigators, because, of course, it was Irrigation New Zealand that went crying to Government in 2010 when an elected council sought to improve the flow.

Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister for the Environment): I am not at all surprised by the very defensive contribution from Eugenie Sage, because she was one of the regional councillors who sat on the governance body of the most dysfunctional unit of local government in New Zealand. She went on to say that it was the farmers or the irrigators who asked the Government to intervene in Environment Canterbury. Actually, it was the 10 mayors of Canterbury who unanimously came to the Government: the Mayor of Christchurch, the Mayor of “Waimak”, the Mayor of Selwyn, the mayor—the ten mayors of Canterbury. Mayors do not often agree and they unanimously expressed no confidence in the body of which Eugenie Sage was a member.

The second point I would want to make is that anybody who is engaged in the water issue in New Zealand knows that nowhere is it as important and pertinent as it is in Canterbury. It is where 70 percent of the irrigation in New Zealand takes place. It is where we have got our biggest challenges around water quality. It is also where over 50 percent of our hydroelectricity is stored in New Zealand. Despite all those factors, in 20 years of the regional council we still had no operative rules around fresh water.

That was a disaster for New Zealand, and it was absolutely right of this Government to say that our fresh water in Canterbury deserves better and that we need to get some high-skilled people to get on top of these challenges. I salute the work of Dame Margaret Bazley; of people the likes of David Caygill, who does not share my politics but does have a great deal of public service ability and dedication; of people like Tom Lambie and those other commissioners. When I reflect on the sort of extravagant language about those commissioners from people like Eugenie Sage, and what I have just heard from Megan Woods, I say that they are out of touch with the people who have actually done more to improve the management of water in Canterbury than anybody in a century.

I want to challenge Megan Woods on a very basic point. She used language saying that it was Draconian, that the votes of Canterbury were stolen by this National John Key - led Government. Did Helen Clark steal the votes of all Aucklanders when she sacked the Auckland District Health Board? Did the member David Cunliffe, whom, I think, Megan Woods was a strong supporter of being a leader—did he steal democracy when he sacked the Auckland District Health Board? Did her good friend Sandra Lee, previously from the Alliance, steal democracy from the people of Kaipara when she sacked that council? Was there a stealing of democracy when the Rodney District Council was properly dismissed? The report was overwhelming: Environment Canterbury had the worst record in processing consents, in statistics that were recorded, and intervention was required.

Megan Woods has asked for a reassurance—that is, whether there will be local body elections in 2019, the same as for every other regional council in New Zealand. I give that assurance absolutely, but I also say that if we really are concerned about the water issues in Canterbury, then we need to ensure that there is a smooth transition. That is why, actually, the majority of councils in Canterbury have supported the transitional approach that is taken in this bill.

I also want to reflect on an editorial in the Christchurch Press. I go back and read it from when I announced the decision to sack the councillors and to appoint commissioners. The editorial said this: “Voters will get to judge the merits of the Government’s moves at the election in 2011.” When we extended the arrangement, the editorial in the Christchurch Press said: “Voters will get to have their say on whether they support National in these interventions at the 2014 election.” Well, what is surprising, and where I think we feel how out of touch Megan Woods and Eugenie Sage are from public opinion, is that, actually, National got the best results ever in the history of Canterbury, holding seats like Nicky Wagner’s in Christchurch Central, because the voters knew that we had acted absolutely in the public interest and in the interests of fresh water with the intervention that we made at that time.

This bill is about taking a responsible approach to Government. It is ensuring that we maintain the momentum and a sensible transition around those crucial freshwater issues that are being developed in a collaborative way across Canterbury. For those who really do beat their chests in this Chamber, concerned about this country lifting its game about fresh water, they will back the commissioners and they will back the Government in its intervention, because every independent observer has noted that there has been more done over the last 6 years in respect of improving the management of fresh water than what there had been in the previous 60 years.

The fact of those red zones, the fact of those plans that have been put in place—well, Eugenie Sage strokes her head. Tell me, how many dairy farm expansions had been declined in the period when she was an Environment Canterbury commissioner? Do you know what the answer is? Absolutely zero—absolutely zero. In fact, if she looks at the record of the growth in the amount of dairy industry in Canterbury, it actually grew at its fastest and most uncontrolled rate when she sat on the governance body of that board.

Actually, the limits that have been put in place around nutrients is causing real tension, real pressure in Canterbury, but at last the issues of fresh water in Canterbury are being properly constrained. Those diffuse pollution issues are having limits put on them, which is absolutely proper. That is why I urge this Committee to look at the progress that has been made, back those commissioners, and ensure there is a smooth transition. Again, I would say that what the Government is doing is actually backed by the majority of the councils in Canterbury. That is why we should see this smooth transition through and ensure that the job we started in 2010 is properly completed, for the good of the people of Canterbury.

EUGENIE SAGE (Green): That contribution from Minister Smith was very interesting, because if you do look at what the record of the commissioners has been, it has not been about improving water quality. We have seen, in Canterbury, despite what the Minister says, a decrease in water quality. We have seen in Canterbury, some of—Te Waihora, Lake Ellesmere. The Waihora-Selwyn catchment drains into Lake Ellesmere. Te Waihora is New Zealand’s fifth-largest lake and it is an important taonga to Ngāi Tahu, and yet we had the chair of the commissioners writing to the Selwyn District Council encouraging the council to agree to an $8 million loan from ratepayers to subsidise the second stage of the Central Plains irrigation scheme.

The Minister can talk about the hundreds of millions that are being spent on cleaning up our lakes and rivers, but it does not make any sense to put more money into subsidising irrigation to intensify land use in a catchment where that drains to Te Waihora and that will increase nutrient pollution in the lake. At the moment we have got a major increase in nitrogen and phosphorous loadings in the lake. We need a 50 percent reduction in the current levels of nutrient pollution to get to a trophic lake index of six or less, which would help the lake to restore itself. We are not getting that where we get the chair of the commissioners not only in regulation but involved in promoting irrigation through encouraging the Selwyn District Council to fund the second stage of the Central Plains Water scheme.

What we have also seen in Canterbury is the decline in the number of swimmable rivers. We had the commissioners promising that 80 percent of rivers would be suitable for swimming by 2015. In 2010, 74 percent of monitored river sites were safe for swimming; yet, in 2016 only 67 percent are. The commissioners have not improved water quality—sure, in a few small areas, but across the region, no, because of the huge scale of intensification.

Yes, the Minister is right: intensification was increasing under the elected councillors’ regime, but there had been a failure by successive Governments to actually implement national direction through a national policy statement and national standards. Yes, we now have that national direction under this Government, but it provides an aspiration of wadeable rivers, not swimmable rivers. So we continue to see water quality declining in the region.

We had a lot of submitters talking about that—about high-country lakes that were previously rated clean and blue by the regional council in its monitoring and now most of them are rated just of moderate quality. You have had dairying expanding in the catchments of high-country lakes rather than being prohibited by Environment Canterbury. As one submitter, Penelope Snowdon-Lait, said: “Despite the small gains in pulling back pollution here and there, overall we are on a treadmill without hope under the current model.” This bill is not about improved water management, as the principal Act claimed to be, when we have seen a continued decline and deterioration in water quality.

The Minister said that all of the councils supported the commissioners replacing the elected councillors. This time, on this bill, the Christchurch City Council highlighted that there should not be a continuation of this half-pie model. Yes, the Minister is holding up his hands. Christchurch—in case the Minister did not realise, and I am sure he does—is the second-largest city in New Zealand. This bill halves the representation for elected councillors for Christchurch and it substantially reduces our overall representation by increasing the number of citizens who are represented by each councillor.

In 2007, when we had elected councillors, in Christchurch there were between 37,000 and 39,000 citizens for every councillor. Under this bill we will now have 90,475 citizens represented by one councillor. The number of councillors representing the city of Christchurch is halved, from eight to four, and they are having to represent almost double the number of citizens. That is not democracy in action, and that is why the Christchurch City Council made a very strong submission calling for a return of an elected council. We have not heard a justification from the Government, either in the discussion document it put out—

DENIS O’ROURKE (NZ First): Just following on from what Eugenie Sage was saying, I wanted to say, first of all, about Part 1 of the Environment Canterbury (Transitional Governance Arrangements) Bill, that the purpose is stated as being to establish a transitional, elected, and appointed mixed Environment Canterbury, but, actually, it does not say anywhere why. Nor has the Minister for the Environment, or any other person from the National Party, yet explained comprehensively why there needs to be a mixed, elected, or appointed body. The bill itself certainly does not say that, even in the purpose clause. Furthermore, clause 3(1)(c) refers to “a majority of members of the Council to be elected”, but that majority is usually only one—so it is the least-possible, paper-thin majority that is possible, and as we will see when we come to discuss Part 2, there will not necessarily always be a majority of elected people either. But that is something for us to discuss later. So, really, this is not just a hybrid; it is a hybrid that may actually not be in any way at all democratic. In fact, you cannot really describe a body that is partly elected and partly appointed as democratic anyway.

The point is that the crux of the whole bill is just this: there actually is not any need after 6 years for any appointed members of Environment Canterbury at all. As I have said, there is no justification in the bill and nor has the Minister described why that should be necessary in any way that I have heard to be comprehensible and meaningful. When you look at the objectives of the 2010 appointments—fundamentally to make sure that the Canterbury Water Management Strategy was developed, adopted, and given effect to—then you could say that today, as we speak, that has actually already been achieved. So, again, it has been achieved. I mean, I live in Canterbury and I am the chairman of the Central Plains Water Trust. I actually take notice of these things, and what is there is already so well entrenched that it would simply not be possible at all for that to be done away with, either in practice or by any process.

There is no reason any longer for the continuation of any commissioners. I would like to hear the Minister comment on that. A return to democracy is in fact essential after 6 years because Environment Canterbury has already lost its credibility as a representative body for the people of Canterbury—it has already lost that. The years have been too long and too difficult for it to be seen in that way anymore. So it is a very serious thing when that happens, and it should not go on for another 3 years—to make 9 years in total. It is wrong also to treat Canterbury differently from any other region for such a very long period of time.

I will say this. I agree over one thing with the Minister: in 2010 it was necessary, I believe, for Environment Canterbury to have been replaced by appointees. But, in fact, 9 years will be far, far too long for that to continue without any really robust reason for that. As I have already said, without a fully elected body you cannot regard the new Environment Canterbury—the transitional one—as being in any way democratic at all, because it is simply not possible for it to operate in that way with so many appointed members.

New Zealand First is committed to an effective local democracy, which means elected people. It is one thing to dismiss elected councillors way back in 2010 but it is another thing altogether for it to go on for 9 years—that is a tremendously long period of time. In fact, the time should have been the shortest possible time because in the Cabinet paper prepared at the time of the Creech report, it actually said this: “the explicit intent is for the Commissioners to withdraw and to be replaced by elected representatives as soon as their task is achieved and the present systemic issues are resolved.” As I have already said, that in fact has already been achieved. The Government has not explained why the appointment of commissioners should continue to be necessary after 6 years, and it needs to do that if it is to have any credibility with this bill at all. So I would ask the Minister to actually stand up right now and give us a full explanation of why that is necessary.

Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE (Labour): Denis O’Rourke, in his closing comments, made a very interesting and valid point. He called on the Minister in the chair, Nick Smith, to justify why, after sacking Environment Canterbury in 2010 then breaking his word, along with the Prime Minister, in 2013 when he said he would reinstate full democratic elections, he is extending out further transitional provisions and enabling the Government to appoint a large component of councillors—up to six, I believe, with seven or so elected councillors—mainly from, of course, as the Minister knows, rural areas. One could make a rather interesting series of conversations about gerrymandering and other things. I could perceive where a number of those elected Environment Canterbury folk will stack up, as opposed to those who are appointed. But Mr O’Rourke made the point—and it is a fair question, which I put to the Minister as well: why the extension?

In 2010 the Minister in the chair sacked Environment Canterbury. In 2013 he said: “No, we will reinstate them.” Then he extended it again. He broke his word—absolutely broke his word. It has been reported on time and time and time again within this House. Then we move right through to 2019 and the Minister expects us to stand up and take him at his word again—take another sort of Nick Smith Lotto ticket—that he will not come back and pull the wool over Cantabrians.

The other interesting thing about this bill is that last week, the Minister might recall, his colleague Gerry Brownlee, with a lot of consultation and a lot of cooperative effort, to give him credit, decided to take on board the concerns of Cantabrians and submitters in respect of the Greater Christchurch Regeneration Bill in order that Cantabrians take the power back, to a large extent—with Crown input, which is appropriate—and take control, if you will, in partnership with the Government, in respect of regenerating Christchurch. I think that was a pretty good process. The Minister listened and he accepted that we have got smart people in Christchurch and Canterbury who are chomping at the bit to shoulder more responsibility in these big issues—and they are huge issues—in respect of the earthquake in Canterbury. The political forces across the aisle acknowledged submitters, and political parties listened to them, and it was agreed that Cantabrians were smart, were responsible, and could be masters of their own destiny.

Yet fast forward to a week later and we come to this bill, and now, of course, we get a whole historic litany of justification: firstly for why it was that the Minister sacked Environment Canterbury, then, secondly, why it was that he broke his word in 2013, but there is no explanation as to why this bill does what it does, because what this bill does is continue to perpetuate the fact that Nick Smith broke his word—9 years, it will be. It just perpetuates that issue. There has not been one explanation from the Minister as to why Cantabrians cannot rule their own roost and why they require to be babysat by commissioners, who are unaccountable commissioners—and I will not get into quality or lack of quality. I think there are many things the commissioners have done that are pretty good, but the point remains that they are answerable to that Minister and they are answerable to this Government.

In the old days you could go to an Environment Canterbury councillor, like an elected MP, and say “Look, I’ve got a problem”, and you could hold their feet to the fire. The truth is that those commissioners are not responsible to the people of Canterbury, nor accountable to the people of Canterbury. They are responsible to that man sitting in that chair and his Government, like those whom he will appoint to babysit the component of elected—mainly rural, but elected— Environment Canterbury councillors who will be elected in respect of this piece of legislation. So we have got Gerry Brownlee, who says “Listen to the people, Cantabrians are smart. We are going to give them what they asked for. They are smart enough, they have the spirit to actually start shouldering a major chunk of the responsibility, or greater chunks of responsibility, in Canterbury”, and then we have this guy, who says “Oh, no, no. They’re not smart enough; they cannot be trusted.” By the way, not only can we not trust those elected but also, of course, by default, the Minister is saying he does not trust the people of Canterbury to elect from their number smart, professional people who will actually do the job. Nick Smith does not trust the people of Canterbury. That is, effectively, what he is saying, because—[Bell rung] Mr Chair—

The CHAIRPERSON (Hon Chester Borrows): The Hon Clayton Cosgrove.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Mr Chair—

The CHAIRPERSON (Hon Chester Borrows): Sorry; I have called the Hon Clayton Cosgrove.

Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE: A day late, a dollar short—nothing changes. I say to that Minister that he should actually give an explanation as to why he does not trust the people of Canterbury, because, as I have just said, before he tried to jump in with one of his usual efforts, by not allowing full elections—full elections where all Cantabrians can elect leaders from among their number—he is, effectively, saying that he does not trust those constituents to elect smart people. That is, essentially, what he is saying.

It would be really good to get an explanation—not the histrionics we have heard in the speeches about what went on in 2010 and the justifications for breaking his word in 2013. No, no. The Minister purports that this is a forward-looking piece of legislation. Well, I invite him to look in his crystal ball and forward-look and give us an explanation as to why he does not trust the constituents whom Mr Doocey and other members—Ms Woods and others—represent in Canterbury. I invite him to tell us why he does not trust them and why he thinks that the people they will elect, the small component they will elect, will not be smart enough, will not be up to it, and will not be trustworthy. There is a question for the Minister. There is a forward-looking question, and I look forward to the answer—not histrionics.

There is such a contrast between this piece of legislation and the Greater Christchurch Regeneration Bill, so maybe he should elbow his colleague Gerry Brownlee, who does reside in Christchurch and who does understand the people of Canterbury, and he demonstrated that last week. Maybe he should give him one in the ribs and say: “Gerry, why is it that you trust the people you represent but I sit in Nelson and I don’t trust these Cantabrians? I know it is not a rugby thing, but, why don’t I trust them? Why don’t I trust them? Why do I know better?”. This Minister is great at telling us why he knows better than anybody else, why he knows better than his mate Gerry Brownlee—who does trust his fellow citizens—and why he knows better than the people of Canterbury. He has demonstrated that he has broken his word. He has demonstrated that he cannot justify this continuing. I ask him now to demonstrate why he does not trust Cantabrians.

Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister for the Environment): I can totally relate as to why the people of Waimakariri twice rejected Clayton Cosgrove as their member of Parliament, with the sort of nastiness that we got from that contribution. Megan Woods asked earlier whether I could give an assurance that there would be local elections in 2019. I responded in good faith to Megan Woods’ response, and then the next Labour member comes along and says: “Well, I don’t want to get an assurance anyway, because I wouldn’t believe it if I got it.” One, it shows you the level of disunity within the Labour Party, but, secondly, it shows the lack of good faith.

The question that Mr Cosgrove asked, and which was also asked by Mr O’Rourke, was in terms of why we need this transition. There is a very simple reason. There are eight water zones in Canterbury. Two of them now have a fully operative set of plans around water. Six of them are halfway through the process. We have commissioners like Peter Skelton, a former Environment Court judge, who ensure there is a great deal of legal scrutiny and appropriateness for us to have a single-track process, without appeals to the Environment Court, to get water plans in place in all six of those zones. The reason Government members want to see, quite simply, a continuity of those commissioners, and see this work done, is that every water zone in Canterbury needs an operative plan. They are two out of eight through that process, we need to see it through, and any member of this Committee who is genuinely concerned about getting robust rules in place for water will want to see that piece of work completed, as is provided for in this bill.

KRIS FAAFOI (Labour—Mana): It is a pleasure to take a call on Part 1 of the Environment Canterbury (Transitional Governance Arrangements) Bill. Clause 3(2)(b), I think it is, sets up the mixed-model arrangement for the Canterbury Regional Council, where there will be seven elected members—up to six members appointed by the Government—but still not a complete return to the democracy that we had in 2010. That—

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Mr Chairperson. It is perfectly proper for the member to want to have a debate about those governance clauses, but they are not covered in Part 1. The clause that he has quoted is the incorrect number, and the contribution he wishes to make should be made during the correct part of the debate.

KRIS FAAFOI: Speaking to the point of order, Mr Chairperson, can I point you to clause 3(2)(b) of the purpose clause, which states that the legislation “provides for a new governing body for the Canterbury Regional Council comprising a mix of elected and appointed members;”?

The CHAIRPERSON (Lindsay Tisch): I take the member’s point, and it is one of a number of points covered in this first part. However, I also take the point the Minister has made, which is that they are far more focused on in future parts. So I am not suggesting that the member has contravened the rules just yet, but I just bring them to his attention.

KRIS FAAFOI: Thank you for your clarification and for the comments of the Minister in the chair, the Hon Nick Smith. Well, because this Act sets up the new governing body for the Canterbury Regional Council comprising a mix of elected and appointed members, which is pointed out in Part 1, I would like to point out to you some of the risk factors that the officials saw in the setting up of this mixed model. These are helpfully on the front page of the regulatory impact statement, which is provided for members on the Table, if anyone from across the way might want to look at it.

The first point that the officials raised around this mixed model, which is mentioned in Part 1, was that “Public consultation was confined to a proposal for the preferred option of a mixed-model governance structure, rather than the range of options in the RIS.” The question that I would like to pose to the Minister in the chair is why the narrow focus on this mixed model and not a good look at the range of options, as contained in the regulatory impact statement, that were posed by the officials. If the Minister would like to take the opportunity to talk to that point, which was raised by officials around the narrow focus and almost the dumb-minded intent of just looking at one option, I would appreciate it—if the Minister could take a call and explain that to us.

Helpfully, the officials go on because they have concerns around the mixed model that we have here. They go on to say in the regulatory impact statement: “This [model] still limits our ability to present full community views on other options in this Regulatory Impact Statement which were not described in the discussion document.” I would like to point out the point that Clayton Cosgrove, I think, made, that around the Regenerate Christchurch legislation that went through this House last week, Gerry Brownlee worked with all parties in this House to get a compromise that everyone was happy with in order to let the people of Christchurch have their voice around the rebuild of that very important city. Yet a different approach has been taken with this piece of legislation and there will not be an effective view around Environment Canterbury. That is another question I want to pose to the Minister: if Minister Brownlee was quite happy to take that approach with the Regenerate Christchurch legislation, why in this legislation under this regulatory impact statement has the Minister not taken a similar approach?

Again, the officials—we are talking about the mixed model, which is pointed out in Part 1—go on to another concern: “While based on the District Health Board model, the proposed governance model has an element of uncertainty as to its effectiveness as it has not been used previously in a local governance context.” I think that shows that the officials shared some of the concerns—or many of the concerns—that we have on this side of the Chamber as to whether this mixed-model approach will work for Christchurch. When we were debating the Regenerate Christchurch legislation last week there was unanimous feeling around this House that we had to get legislation around Christchurch right. That is why Gerry Brownlee took that approach and that is why, I think, the Minister needs to explain, when there are concerns around the effectiveness of the model that he is proposing for Environment Canterbury, why he is taking this approach to take a different approach. Why is he not taking the approach that Minister Brownlee has said will make sure that his legislation is effective for Christchurch, but this Minister says it is different?

The officials helpfully go on to say: “The appointment of councillors is seen by some as an unwarranted intrusion into Canterbury’s affairs by central government.” In English, they are saying that there is going to be no local voice for those people when it comes to this piece of legislation. You would wonder, and I would hazard a guess, that Mr Smith might get up and say: “Well, that is a bunch of lefties—

MAUREEN PUGH (National): I move, That the question be now put.

KRIS FAAFOI (Labour—Mana): Just before I was interrupted by the buzzer, I was raising the point that there is a concern for some that there is unwarranted intrusion into Canterbury’s affairs by central government. That was on the front page of the regulatory impact statement. In essence, it was that Christchurch would not have a local voice. You might think that the Government might say that that was lefties, tree-huggers who do not think they are getting listened to in Christchurch. But, funnily enough, it was the Law Society that submitted at the select committee that it was the local voice that was being taken away.

So I will take this opportunity to quote directly from the submission from the Law Society because I think it very much succinctly encapsulates many of the concerns that we have on this side of the Chamber around the lack of democracy that is contained within this bill. Its submission said—and I think this is also very much its submission that it made on the 2013 amendment Act: “Underlying the reasons and the Amendment Bill is a concerning idea: that effective leadership, at a regional level at least, is best achieved through a non-democratic and non-representative institution.” The Law Society says: “This is misguided. The failure to involve citizens in regional decision-making that affects them so directly, and to draw directly on their knowledge and expertise, often has adverse and unexpected consequences. History has long shown the perils of non-democratic leadership, a matter that the New Zealand Government has railed against within the Pacific region.”

So to have this quasi mixed-model arrangement for Canterbury has been pointed out by many, many bodies, as well as political parties, as not being the best fit for Christchurch. I think in a city where we need to get the rebuild right, where we need to get some of these issues around resource allocation right, that the people of Christchurch are entitled to have their voice. The people of Christchurch should not be fooled by the fact that the Government says this is a transition back to democracy. It is still holding back full democracy, which they fully deserve. They fully deserve it. They do not deserve some mixed model of: “Well, you can have seven and we’ll appoint six.” Their votes should have exactly the same effect as votes for the Wellington region, where I will get to choose the members who will be on the Greater Wellington Regional Council.

A political impasse around resource allocation is not a good enough reason to take away democracy from Canterbury and that is what this is all about. It is not about people not getting on. It is not about taking away democracy. It is not about a rebuild. It is about this Government saying: “Well, we can’t get what we want done under the democratic votes that happened in Christchurch under that frame because there is an impasse.” So instead of letting democracy sort that out and waiting for the next election, potentially, and putting forward its case—even if our side of the equation lost that democratic argument, that is democracy. But instead of saying “Let’s let democracy win and put our case.”, it says: “Well, to hell with democracy. Let’s get rid of the people who were elected on to this board, to make sure we get the result that we want.” I think that New Zealanders around this country, regardless of whether they are from the Canterbury region or not, will be very, very concerned that this is the third time—not the first, not the second; it is the third time—that we are implementing this legislation to take away their local democratic voice.

The Government may have genuine concerns around resource allocation in Christchurch around water rights but changing the democratic functions of Environment Canterbury is not the way to fix this problem. We told them that in 2010, we told them that in 2013, and now it is going to be 2019 before the people of Christchurch get to elect a full board of Environment Canterbury. Nick Smith is to blame for that because he says that democracy should not win and that his Government should win because they want to get a certain outcome. In this House, and as has been pointed out by the Law Society, we do not want that to happen in the likes of the Pacific but it is fine here in New Zealand. I think the Minister should explain himself as to why he thinks it is not OK in the likes of Fiji, and we encourage democracy in Fiji, but it is OK in Canterbury. Get up on your feet and answer that question.

JAN LOGIE (Green): I am pleased to take a short call on Part 1 of the Environment Canterbury (Transitional Governance Arrangements) Bill and to speak to the point around this being a transitional governance arrangement that will be providing a mixed model of democracy for the people of Canterbury.

I want to restate the point that the case was never made or accepted by the people of Canterbury for the removal of their council. Although the Minister is acknowledging my point, nodding enthusiastically that that is true—in saying that, although there were issues over the water management and the Government’s perception was that things were not happening quickly enough, the people of Canterbury never got to say whether they shared the Minister’s view that that was a problem, because the Government removed their board and did not give them that democratic right to intervene and make a decision on that. Although the Minister has spoken in this Committee and said “Well, now we have plans in place that we did not have before.”, my understanding is that the bulk of the work that led to the production of those plans was done by the previous board that he sacked.

I would also point out that where the Minister has said we cannot get rid of these appointed officials because the status of water in Canterbury is critical to that area—we absolutely share that view, in the Green Party. However, it is concerning when waterways have actually become more degraded under this model of governance than they were previously, and when we have just seen recently in the media that, in a very water-resource constrained area, 40 billion litres of water are now going to be able to be sold and sent offshore via a resource consent that, I understand, was approved by this governance board, which the people of Canterbury are understandably very upset about.

What I am seeing is that no case was made. There was no chance for the people of Canterbury to approve or express their view of the Government’s perception, and there was no improvement of water quality. Of the 1,169 submissions on this bill, only 15 supported it. The people of Canterbury have said, very strongly, to this Government, to the Minister, and to this House that they do not want this. The strong thread through the submissions was that people want their democracy back. They want to be able to vote for the full board, and they do not support the belief that there is any value in this mixed model. That is a view that is shared by the Green Party.

I would again restate a quote from the Law Society, when it was submitting on this bill, around the cause of it: “Representative democracy is a fundamental principle that gives legitimacy to government and the exercise of state power. … it [is] one of the ‘unalterable fundamentals’ of our legal system (the other being independent courts). The proposed further suspension of full democracy is inconsistent with one of [our] core constitutional values, namely a ‘free and democratic society’.” What this bill is doing, although you are saying it is a transitional arrangement, is it is an ongoing attack on the absolute fundamentals of this society, of what most people in New Zealand thought was an accepted precept of how we work together and how this country functions.

For the Government to say “We don’t like it because we’re not getting the outcome that we want.”—well, you know, I could stand up and say: “Well, I don’t like the way that the Government is working and the results that you are getting. I’d like to appoint some independent people that I think would do a better job.” I am not elected, I have not been given that power, but neither were you, Minister. You have been elected into a position here, not in that community, and that community has a democratic right to say how its resources are used.

RINO TIRIKATENE (Labour—Te Tai Tonga): It is my pleasure to speak in the Committee stage of this bill—but is it actually a pleasure, because here we are, yet again, debating legislation that is denying the people of Canterbury their full democratic rights to elect a full regional council. Every time this subject is raised in this House, I am reminded of the stone cairn that stands in Cathedral Square in Christchurch. That stone cairn was erected back in 2010 by the thousands of Cantabrians who were very concerned and aghast that this Government was going to be stripping them of their democratic rights, stripping them of their elected regional councillors.

That was a very passionate act by the people of Canterbury. The stones in that cairn stand so high; it is probably as tall as I am. The stones in that structure are drawn from many of the rivers that are in the wider Canterbury catchment. That cairn marks the loss of democracy. That cairn was erected in 2010, and here we are in 2016 debating more legislation that will extend the stripping of the rights of Cantabrians for another 3 years. So from 2010 to 2019 the people of Canterbury are being denied their right, their democratic right, to elect their regional councillors.

We have heard from the Minister Nick Smith. He trots out the same excuses and justifications all the time. He will make disparaging remarks about anybody who has a contrary view to his. But what we need to remember is that whatever body the council may be—and we are now talking about a transitional governing body—at the end of the day the water issues in Canterbury, in the wider Canterbury region, are not going to be fixed by this body. They are not going to be fixed by bodies beyond that time. Hopefully, it will be an elected body, though, that will advocate for, and represent, the people of Canterbury to ensure that there will be some better managed water in the region. But we are talking about issues that are very complex. In essence, we are talking about not having enough water and a lot of competing interests who need that water. That is not going to be fixed overnight.

So I raise the hypothetical question: what if, come 2019, the plans are still not in place? What say this transitional governing body still has not completed the work that it was charged to do? I know that Dame Margaret Bazley and David Caygill are outstanding public servants and are highly esteemed—highly esteemed—but that is a monumental task they have before them. They have made some progress, but what say they have not completed the task? What then? Do we come back to this House and put through more legislation to push it out even further: “Oh, we need more time. The people of Canterbury—we can’t trust them to elect. We need to have this transitional period for a little bit longer.”? So it goes on and on and on. We have seen this from 2013, and here we are in 2016 with legislation that goes all the way out to 2019.

No matter which way you want to construct things, or proscribe things, or prescribe an outcome for the people of Canterbury, ultimately we have to take the decision back to the people and let them have their say as to who will represent them on the regional council.

TIM MACINDOE (Senior Whip—National): I move, That the question be now put.

The CHAIRPERSON (Lindsay Tisch): I am going to hear from the Hon David Parker. He is on the select committee.

Hon DAVID PARKER (Labour): I want to address two of the issues that the Hon Nick Smith raised. Firstly, I heard him say that Environment Canterbury was the worst regional council that there has ever been. I know that my colleague Eugenie Sage is, quite rightly, defensive of the prior council on which she served. But I think I do agree with the Minister—and there is truth in both these propositions.

It is right that it was wrong that all those years after the Resource Management Act, Environment Canterbury still did not have an effective water plan in place. It is also true that the most recently elected council, of which Eugenie Sage was part, had actually made more progress towards the creation of a water plan than any of the other prior councils. So I can understand her taking umbrage at some of the generalised criticisms that were made by Nick Smith. Can I say that I do not think you should have taxation without representation. It is a basic precept of democracy.

Denis O’Rourke: Fundamental.

Hon DAVID PARKER: Fundamental, thank you. It is fundamental. It has been so long already that we have had rates being imposed by a council that is not democratic that it is just time to go back to a fully democratic one. I think it is good that David Caygill is actually one of the commissioners standing for the council. All of them could do that if they wanted to continue on in that role, and, actually, I suspect that some of them would get elected, and you could have that continuity in that way.

I want to mention another thing. I am bit tired of Dr Smith pretending that nothing was ever done before he walked the Earth, when in actual fact there was a national policy statement waiting to be implemented mere weeks after the change of Government. Nick Smith shakes his head, and the excuse he normally gives when he speaks is that it was illegal—that the national policy statement that was prepared by the Principal Planning Judge of New Zealand, Judge Sheppard, was somehow in breach of the Resource Management Act, but he has never been willing to release the legal advice to that effect. And if it was illegal because it was prescriptive in what needed to be done in terms of controlling intensity of land use, which is the main reason why water quality has continued to get worse, why did they not change the law then, rather than changing the law now in the Resource Management Act legislation that has just been given a first reading in this House a couple of months ago?

In reality, that is what needed to happen. Actually, what needed to happen was that someone needed to say that things that are clean ought to stay clean and things that are dirty ought to be cleaned up over, say, a generation. And because we know that it is increases in land use intensity, with more irrigation, more fertiliser, more livestock effluent adding the nutrient and faecal chloroform load on waterways—that is what needed to be controlled and has not been. Even now, it is not controlled properly.

I know that the plan we now have in Environment Canterbury is a lot better, and I am actually pleased that the Minister did appoint those commissioners and clean out a lot of the crap that we have in plans that is unnecessary and makes them complex, as it makes them more readable instruments that actually do what they are meant to do. But even in Canterbury we have still got declining water quality. I was out just a matter of weeks ago fly fishing in the back country of Canterbury. I was there with a friend of mine who uses a fishing guide. The fishing guide said that in the last 3 years he has stopped using rivers like the lower stretches of the Ōpihi and other mid - South Canterbury rivers that are continuing to get worse year by year. I was going to say day by day, but that is not right—year by year. The big difference has been that in the last 3 years it has got so bad that he no longer fishes them. He can no longer take people along there to fish them. We saw those photos on Q+A in the weekend. Some of those rivers are being sucked dry, the minimum flows are not high enough, and the water quality controls are not good enough.

I am ready to trust our democratically elected environmental people to do their job. I would also note that the good work that these commissioners have done actually has not been because of the national policy statement. That is actually not what has caused them to do what they have done. They have done that notwithstanding the national policy statement.

Lastly, before I sit down, I think the so-called collaborative processes that we have got under the Land and Water Forum have failed. I know the Land and Water Forum has done some good things, but they are actually lowest common denominator outcomes. It cannot agree on things like pricing. This Ashburton thing where billions of litres of water are going to be bottled at profit with no price imposed—on the Land and Water Forum some wanted to, but they could never agree.

MATT DOOCEY (National—Waimakariri): I move, That the question be now put.

A party vote was called for on the question, That the question be now put.

Ayes 63 New Zealand National 59; Māori Party 2; ACT New Zealand 1; United Future 1.
Noes 58 New Zealand Labour 32; Green Party 14; New Zealand First 12.
Motion agreed to.
  • The question was put that the amendment set out on Supplementary Order Paper 157 in the name of the Hon Dr Nick Smith to clause 4A be agreed to.

A party vote was called for on the question, That the amendment be agreed to.

Ayes 63 New Zealand National 59; Māori Party 2; ACT New Zealand 1; United Future 1.
Noes 58 New Zealand Labour 32; Green Party 14; New Zealand First 12.
Amendment agreed to.

A party vote was called for on the question, That Part 1 as amended be agreed to.

Ayes 63 New Zealand National 59; Māori Party 2; ACT New Zealand 1; United Future 1.
Noes 58 New Zealand Labour 32; Green Party 14; New Zealand First 12.
Part 1 as amended agreed to.

Part 2 Governance arrangements during transition period

Dr MEGAN WOODS (Labour—Wigram): I would like to speak in this first contribution on clauses 8 and 10. Clauses 8 and 10, of course, are where the transitional governing body is established and the process for electing members to that body. This really is where the substance of this legislation is.

These clauses of the bill were subject to a number of submissions, and the bulk of the submissions that the Local Government and Environment Committee heard—there were 76 submissions from individuals and organisations and 1,076 form-based submissions—objected to the non-democratic mode that was being established under this transitional body. For example, the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society of New Zealand, in its submission, was opposed to having Government-appointed members on the council, whom the people of Christchurch are expected to trust have their interests at heart without any ability to know whether that is the case. This was just one of many submissions.

What clause 8 of this legislation does is establish that there be seven elected members and six appointed members. This is the part of the legislation where the Minister for the Environment and the Minister of Local Government are able to appoint these members to the body, rather than like in every other part of the country, where electors who are registered to vote get to elect 100 percent of their regional councillors.

I would just like to pick up on one of the contributions that the Minister for the Environment made in a previous part of the legislation. He seemed to in no way answer the call as to why a case for a different set of circumstances is required in Canterbury, and I would like to ask the Minister whether or not he has plans for rolling this out any further outside Canterbury because I do not think just the people of Canterbury should be concerned about this legislation. This legislation sets a dangerous precedent, which is that central government takes control of what should be a locally elected council and puts that in place.

This is not something the Minister will be unaware of because this is, of course, something the Minister did receive some advice on, and we know some of the updates the Minister for the Environment was receiving said the purpose of local government includes “providing democratic local decision-making and action. Long-term unconventional arrangements in Canterbury could create a precedent for further ad hoc local governance and service delivery arrangements.” So officials were warning Ministers that there would be a concern this is a precedent-setting set of circumstances that we are putting in place under clause 8 of this legislation on the transitional governing body. I am most eager to hear the Minister in the chair, Nick Smith, talk more about that.

My colleague the member for Mana raised some of the Law Society’s submissions around this very fundamental aspect of who it is who is going to govern the region of Canterbury, its services, and its assets. The Law Society stated that “The proposed further suspension of full democracy is inconsistent with core constitutional values. The justification for the proposed mixed-model governance structure is not sufficiently convincing and the need for the continuance of appointed Commissioners has not been demonstrated.” I would like to hear the Minister’s response to the Law Society’s raising that in its submission to the select committee, because I think we should not ignore the submissions that came before the select committee.

The select committee process was terrible. There was only around a week that was open for people to get their submissions in, and the process was truncated. It is not acceptable when a piece of legislation contains a clause such as clause 8, which is the further suspension of democracy in a region, that a Minister and a Government think it is OK to put that legislation through in a rushed and clumsy process. As I said in an earlier contribution, it is not like the Minister did not know. It had been 3 years since he had last cancelled elections in Canterbury. You would have thought he would have had it marked on his calendar—“Time to cancel elections again in Canterbury.”—and could have planned his time accordingly, but no. Instead, the people of Canterbury did not even get an adequate opportunity to comment on such a fundamental clause as clause 8 of this legislation.

I would also like to talk about clause 10 now, which is the process for electing members. Of course, once this legislation is enacted, what will happen is there will be a representation, the representation processes will go into place, and the boundaries will be established. In terms of the number of electors, some work has been done on this already. Clause 10 sets this out very clearly in the bill as “Seven elected members of the transitional governing body must be elected at the 2016 election—”. It goes on to say that they must be elected through a first-past-the-post system, and then says “One member must be elected by electors within the districts of the following local authorities (the South Canterbury constituency):”. It goes through and it names the mid-Canterbury constituency and the North Canterbury constituency, but if we look very closely at what Ministers were receiving advice on about the possible numbers in each of these constituencies, we see very clearly the Government’s agenda laid bare.

If you live in Christchurch City, under the Government’s proposed model you will have one regional councillor for every 90,475—no, not you, Mr Chairman. You do not live there. You are lucky enough to have an elected regional council. But for the people of Canterbury who live in Christchurch City, they will have one elected regional councillor for every 90,475 people. That is only four regional councillors for the whole of Christchurch City. But if someone is lucky enough to live in South Canterbury, their representation is somewhat more salubrious. They are going to have greater representation because there will be a regional councillor for every 59,770 electors.

I want to hear the Minister take a call and explain the discrepancies in what is otherwise just a good old-fashioned gerrymander. This is nothing more than the Government wanting to stop urban councillors coming in with what it might see as an environmental agenda and asking some questions around the big issues that need to be faced in Canterbury. It shows how short-sighted this Government is, and how out of touch and how arrogant it is. It says one of the justifications for putting in place this gerrymandered council is the need that we have around our water, but it also talks about the functions that have to happen in the recovery, and now the regeneration, of Canterbury. Well, a big part of that has to happen in Christchurch City, and a large part of that function needs to happen within the city. To say there should be only one councillor for every 90,000 electors is simply unacceptable.

The role that Environment Canterbury has to fulfil in Christchurch City—its functions are now enacted under the Regenerate Christchurch legislation. It can be a proponent of regeneration plans. It has a very core aspect to play. So what we are saying is it is not people from Christchurch City who will be proposing those regeneration plans, because we are going to have under-representation of that core area of the region in this newly constituted body—no, we will have people all from outside Christchurch. So I am very much looking forward to the Minister’s call on how it is that that can be justified. I am also looking forward to the Minister taking a call and answering the Law Society’s criticism of what is being established under clause 8 of this legislation, because these are fundamental and important questions that none of us should take lightly.

Let us be very clear. We are standing in this Chamber debating legislation that will further—well, it will not further it, because the vote has already been taken away. But it will do nothing to put in place the democratic rights that the people of Christchurch and Canterbury should consider they have a right to, like any other New Zealander. This is a democratically elected body of people who are debating whether or not a Minister has the power to just override electors and appoint whomever he wants, because this is a Minister who is on the record as saying that democracy is risky. When we have a Minister who thinks democracy is risky, we have in legislation things such as clause 8, which take away the right of Cantabrians to elect their regional council. Thank you.

Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister for the Environment): For the Committee to take seriously the protestations that are being made by Megan Woods when she says that this is an affront to democracy and that I am all these terrible things, she needs to ask this question: was it an affront to democracy when Helen Clark sacked the Auckland District Health Board? Did that make her a person like Rabuka? Does Labour, in fact, support, as the National Government does, Helen Clark becoming the Secretary-General of the United Nations—

Hon Clayton Cosgrove: I don’t think that’s in the bill, Nick.

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: —and, actually, a person who served this Parliament well? Well, Clayton Cosgrove needs to answer that question.

Kris Faafoi: Is that in Part 2?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Because if it is an affront to democracy, and if the actions that the Government has taken in respect of Environment Canterbury are just the same, I would say to Mr Faafoi, as what Rabuka did in Fiji—if he wants to make that analogy, he has to answer the question as to whether it was OK for Helen Clark to sack the elected Auckland District Health Board. Was it OK for David Cunliffe to sack the elected Hawke’s Bay District Health Board? Was it OK to sack the Rodney District Council? Was it OK to sack the Kaipara District Council? Because the key point that members opposite are not answering is that there is a fundamental difference between a National Government—a sovereign Parliament—and a subsidiary body.

In exactly the same way, I would put this to members: did democracy come to an end when a Labour Government said that it was no longer appropriate to elect electric power boards? We do not elect electric power boards anywhere in the country any more. Is it fundamentally opposed to democracy, the fact that we no longer elect port companies—that we no longer elect harbour boards, which used to be elected? Actually, this Parliament makes choices all the time about specialist bodies—whether they are managing water, whether they are managing health boards, whether they are managing harbours, whether they are managing schools, or whether they are managing a whole number of subsidiary functions—as to what is the best way to run them, and, in our view, quite appropriately.

I acknowledge the sensible contribution from David Parker, who actually acknowledged that the highly skilled commissioners—people like Margaret Bazley, people like Peter Skelton, people like David Caygill—have actually done a very good job of getting on top of the water issues in Canterbury.

Then the second issue is: why is this extension and this transition necessary? Well, actually, when this Parliament passed the Environment Canterbury legislation, we had no idea that 5 months later Canterbury would be struck by the worst earthquake and the biggest national disaster there has been in the lifetime of most parliamentarians in this Committee today. Actually, that earthquake did change things. For instance, a huge amount of the time and effort of the commissioners had to go into the earthquake issues rather than the water issues. The reality is that the building in which Environment Canterbury operated became completely unsafe, and the whole organisation had to relocate. So for members of the Labour Party to disingenuously claim that nothing changed after the Government’s intervention, which required more time to do the work, is to deny the history of Canterbury the significance of the earthquakes, which made the transition and the issues for Environment Canterbury all the more significant.

I also want to take issue with the simply wrong claims—he is wrong on so many occasions—from Clayton Cosgrove, who said a few moments ago that actually there will be more elected members from rural Canterbury than from urban Canterbury. That is not true. The legislation provides for four councillors to be elected from the city of Christchurch and three from the areas of South Canterbury, mid-Canterbury, and North Canterbury. Anybody who knows Canterbury would know that those are well-understood boundaries and that those are the logical areas to be able to bring in those three representatives, covering the areas of South Canterbury, of Ashburton and so on in mid-Canterbury, and of Waimakariri, Hurunui, and Kaikōura in North Canterbury. It is a logical way in which to bring those representatives in.

The two final points I wish to make are these. Members of Labour are saying that it is an affront to democracy and that it is totally wrong to have mixed-member Government bodies. They need to explain why the Labour Government legislated in this Parliament for exactly that structure for the district health boards that operate in every part of this country, and in Canterbury. If they really want to be true to the speeches that they have just given, they will make a commitment in their next speech that every district health board, including Canterbury’s, will be fully elected, because if they do not give that commitment, their contributions are no more than hot air and politics.

The very last point I would make is that members have asked the question of why it is that the further 3 years is required—that is, simply, why Canterbury? It has such huge issues over water—far more significant than any other region—that only two of the zones have operative plans. This 3 years—and it is very clear in the paper trail—will enable us to have a fully operative water plan for the part of New Zealand where the water issues are so huge and so significant.

The last point I would wish to make is that this provision in the bill says that the Government can appoint up to six commissioners. As I have previously said publicly, the most important issue for the Government is the continuity—the continuity of having those highly skilled commissioners, who have actually done a damned good job of sorting those things through. By having these mechanisms in this part of the bill, it enables us to retain the skills of those people, whom even Labour members acknowledge have been crucial to lifting the game in Canterbury. The Government reserves the right to appoint a lesser number, if they are not required for continuity, to maximise the point of say from the people of Canterbury.

EUGENIE SAGE (Green): I am tired of Minister Nick Smith repeating the comments about commissioners who were appointed in relation to district health boards. They were in place for a much shorter time than these appointed members will be on the regional council. Also, the Minister, again, is being rather mischievous in failing to recognise that district health boards derive all of their income from national taxes. They are Crown agents for the purpose of the Crown Entities Act, which sets out and prescribes their objectives and functions in quite limited terms. Because they are funded totally by taxes, it is then quite different when the Minister appoints representatives there to carry out the Crown’s objectives. Regional councils are different. They are funded largely by rates and through some funding from the National Land Transport Fund, in terms of public transport. That is what the fundamental objection to this legislation is. There is no comparison with district health boards.

I think the fact that the Minister keeps coming back to previous Governments having appointed commissioners to replace district health boards for a short period of time shows the emptiness of the Government’s justification for this legislation. It claims—and it has claimed in the discussion document that the Ministry for the Environment put out—that it is essential that we have appointed rather than elected members, because that seems to be the only way that the Government believes that you can encourage strong organisational performance and effective decision-making. What does the Minister and what does the Government think is happening in regional councils around the country, and in district and city councils around the country? For this Parliament, the electorate is trusted to elect competent people to undertake quite complex governance functions, to make decisions with big budgets on complex issues, and yet, somehow in Canterbury just because it is about water, the Government does not trust the people of Canterbury to elect competent councillors to be able to do that.

That is, again, because the Government has a very extractive agenda. It wants to promote more irrigation and more agricultural intensification. That is the real justification for this bill, and for the Ministers having such massive powers to appoint six members of the council.

In Part 2, under clause 15, the members may also be removed at the discretion of the responsible Ministers, the Minister for the Environment and the Minister of Local Government. Those powers are at their complete discretion. There are no constraints on Ministers, having appointed those six members, as to when they would remove them. That means that if the appointed members do not meet the satisfaction of Ministers, they can just be removed, and the Ministers do not even have to give any reasons. This is highly paternalistic and it is highly undemocratic—the powers that we are giving to Ministers in this bill to remove the ability of Cantabrians to elect competent members of their council.

The comments that Megan Woods made about the representation—one of the recommendations in the Creech report was that the representation of the city of Christchurch should be reviewed. That is not happening, and the city of Christchurch and Christchurch citizens will be very much under-represented in this new model, and that is why Opposition members have accused the Government of gerrymandering with this bill. It gives much better representation, in terms of the ratio of elected councillors to number of citizens, to those in the rural constituencies than to those in Christchurch. If we look across the country—under this mixed model with the appointed members, we will have one councillor per 90,000 people in Christchurch, and yet an average of one councillor per 82,000 people across Canterbury. In the Waikato there is one elected councillor for every 31,000 people, in the Bay of Plenty there is one councillor for every 21,000 people, and in Wellington there is one councillor for every 38,000-odd people. That is a much more effective and accessible method of local representation than this bill, which is having only one councillor for every 90,475 people in Christchurch.

This is undemocratic, Minister. The justifications that the Government has given show that it does not really trust democracy at all. Potentially, people in Christchurch may not turn out to vote because why would you vote for councillors around a table when almost half of the other people at the table can have a hot line to the Minister—when councillors can be potentially overruled by the Government appointees? The power is staying in Wellington—it is not being given back to elected members in Canterbury.

The other issue is just these excuses that the Minister keeps giving by saying that only two of 10 zone committees in Canterbury have developed sub-catchment plans to be part of the regional land and water plan. It is interesting, the double standard. Environment Canterbury, for much of its initial life, struggled with the issue of clean air in Christchurch. That was a major issue for the health of Christchurch people, resulting in additional deaths each year. The elected council focused on air, then it moved to water.

The Minister has been highly critical of elected councillors for their failure to develop an operative plan, though there was a proposed one, yet now the Minister is giving the same reason—the need for more time—as an excuse to continue the appointment of commissioners, as he was so critical of elected councillors. There is no consistency there. If only two of the 10 sub-catchment plans have been completed by commissioners, how can the Government then say they have done a good job if the commissioners were appointed to improve water management and if the commissioners were appointed to expedite the planning process? Well, they have obviously failed there if only two of these sub-catchment plans have actually been done.

Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE (Labour): That speech by Nick Smith—he is great at bandying words like “nasty” and various things around—was one of the most disingenuous speeches I have ever heard from that member. He effectively said that one of the reasons the Government extended it in 2013 was that “there was an earthquake”, and, yes, they had to relocate offices and those sorts of things. Well, that is not what he said, of course, in speeches to this House and other places in respect of the issues in terms of outstanding water consents and other issues at the time. So to treat Cantabrians with disdain, to treat them like fools, and to use their misery in an earthquake to justify his incompetence or to justify his extension—which he put down to the array of water issues and water consents at the time, not an earthquake—I think, even for him, is a bit low. It is a bit low for that member. It is called clutching at straws, and the Minister needs to read the Standing Orders, because it is our job to ask the Minister questions and it is his job to answer them.

In Part 1—and these are the same questions I put, because they are relevant to clause 8. I ask the Minister these questions again. Where is the justification for this extension? Why is it that unlike his colleague Gerry Brownlee, who promoted a piece of legislation as late as last week that gives wide responsibilities to leaders and community leaders in Canterbury—acknowledging that they were good enough, tough enough, and smart enough to step up to the plate, to work in partnership with the Crown, and to take greater responsibility for the earthquake—he brings legislation with a completely contrary view?

He is good at throwing around insults, but he is not good at actually answering the particular questions. And I put the question to him again: why does he not have faith? He says he has faith in the commissioners. They are skilled, and I agree with David Parker that they are commendable for many of the things they have done. But they, Minister, also have the opportunity, because they are citizens of New Zealand, to demonstrate, if they so wish, and test those skills and stand in a democratic election if they want to. David Caygill, for instance, a former member in this House and a former Minister, knows elections extremely well, and if he, for instance, wanted to test his mandate, he could stand. I know that he is a man of honour and integrity. Even he does not need to rely, to demonstrate his skills, on a mandate in accountability derived directly from that Minister and his Government.

But why is it—and if the Minister wants to answer, I will be quite happy to let him do it—that he does not feel there are sufficient numbers of Cantabrians who are bright, intelligent, and smart enough, and who are responsible enough to actually take all the positions, through an election, on a regional council? It is answered, I think, by the fact that many members have quoted him—he said democracy is risky. I think the Minister should reflect on that comment as a person who is elected to this House. He talked about Rabuka in his last contribution—Sitiveni Rabuka and the coup in Fiji. He introduced that. I suspect that at that time Colonial Rabuka viewed democracy as risky. But to bring in that theme as a justification for his stance, saying that democracy is risky, I think says an abundance about him. It is quite bizarre for a member who is elected to this House, who holds a ministerial warrant, and, I presume, believes in the sort of—well, at least in central government terms—constitutional arrangements that we have.

I would have thought—sorry, if you are going to say something, you have got to actually articulate, not mouth, the words. Noise has to come out of your mouth, Minister. No, no, speak up—say it again.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Always so nasty.

Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE: Oh, OK. That justifies my point, Minister, because that is your only defence. You are incapable, as a Minister, of actually—

The CHAIRPERSON (Lindsay Tisch): Order!

Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE: Sorry, he is—not you, Mr Chairman. He is incapable as a Minister of actually answering the questions. If you would like to answer them, I am happy to yield to you. Why is it that you simply do not trust the leadership within the community of Canterbury? Why it is that you use the justification that Environment Canterbury had to relocate its offices? That was one of the reasons the Minister had to go back on his word and extend it for 3 years—because there was an earthquake. I put it to that Minister that we had the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority—

The CHAIRPERSON (Lindsay Tisch): I am going to call—[Interruption]—Denis O’Rourke. But, just before I do, I say that when a member goes for the call, they call out and I either acknowledge them or I do not. All right? You do not just stand up and say something, because that is unacceptable.

DENIS O’ROURKE (NZ First): I first of all want to refer to clause 8, which is the one that provides for the mixed elected and appointed council—seven elected and six appointed—and I just want to say this. I think that is a risky kind of a council to establish. It is likely to create tensions between those who are appointed and those who are elected. We are likely to get a them-and-us attitude, and it is not going to be positive for an organisation that should actually be representative of the people and not of the Government. So I will leave that there. I have said that I think it is a bad idea. I have said that it is likely to be dysfunctional, and I think it will be.

I want to go on and say this about clause 8(1)(a). In the first version of the bill it referred to only “7 elected members;”, but now it refers to “no fewer than 4 and no more than 7 elected members;”. So it is envisaged that there will be, in some circumstances, fewer than seven elected members at a particular time, although under clause 8(1)(b) there will be up to six appointed members and there could, therefore, be at any particular time a majority, in fact, of appointed people and not of elected people. I presume the reason why this clause has been drafted in the way it is is that it would provide for deaths or resignations of elected people, and that is fair enough. But why is it not drafted to preserve the majority of elected people over appointed people at all times?

The Ministers could suspend any particular appointed person or persons in order to maintain a majority of elected people, and that is what should have been done in the bill. Otherwise, the Government, and the Ministers, are accepting the possibility—in fact, almost the inevitability—that there could be, at a particular time, a majority of appointed people over elected ones, because many councils have either deaths or resignations for some reason or another during a 3-year term. So I think that is a problem in the bill that simply has not been addressed, and perhaps the Minister in the chair would like to comment on that.

I want to move on, however, to the reference in clause 11(2), which deals with appointed members and the need for skills. It seems to me that this is one of the main reasons why the Government believes that there needs to actually be appointed members at all. But when you look at it, this is what it actually says. It says that those skills are: “(a) the management of fresh water;”. Well, that is not exclusive to appointed members. In fact, there are many, many very skilled and experienced people in Canterbury who could be elected to represent the need for a skill in the management of fresh water. Clause 11(2)(b) states: “local authority governance and management;”. Actually, you would find more people with those skills amongst elected people than you would amongst appointed people. So that does not hang very well. Subclause (2)(d) refers to knowledge of “the Canterbury region and its people.” Again, I would have thought that elected people would have greater skills than appointed people, as far as the knowledge of the Canterbury region and its people is concerned.

So these reasons really do not make much sense and do not justify the need for appointed people at all. Perhaps the Minister could explain that. What he has said is that what the Government wants is continuity. Well, what is the magic about continuity? The real issue is not continuity; the real issue is having a mix of skills. In fact, that is what the bill says, not what the Minister says. If continuity was the issue, why is that not in the bill? In fact, what is in the bill is about skills, but, as I have just said, that does not actually make sense in justifying the need for appointed people, at all. So I think the Government’s whole argument actually crashes to the ground right there.

I want to go on and mention this. Clause 11(4) refers to the validity of appointed members not being affected if they do not actually have those skills. Well, if you are going to have that subclause there, why is the whole thing there at all? In fact, why are there any appointed members at all, if they do not have to have those skills, by authority, under subclause (4)?

I also want to talk about subclause (1A), which relates to Ngāi Tahu representation. This is where we in New Zealand First depart from all of the other parties in the Committee. We think that having Ngāi Tahu representation, especially as many as two members, on Environment Canterbury is wrong in principle. We think that having any appointed members is wrong in principle. We think, quite apart from that, that the appointment to an elected body of people, or even a partly elected body of people, based on their race or on their ethnicity is fundamentally wrong. We would oppose the bill for that reason alone.

There should be no appointed people on elected bodies. It compromises the effectiveness of those bodies and it compromises the fact that they are democratic and should operate democratically. We would support, however, an advisory body of Ngāi Tahu people, the views of whom, for example, must be taken particular notice of by Environment Canterbury in making its decisions. But actual membership by appointment to an elected body is wrong, and New Zealand First would definitely always oppose that. We know that other parties do not have that position, but we do.

For all of those reasons, I would say that this bill should not be passed. But, again, I would just repeat this: the Minister has said that continuity is the big deal. He has not said why, really, when in fact that is not in the bill at all. What is in the bill is the need for skills. In the bill, the skills required are specified, but, in fact, you will get those skills through the election of people, and probably better through the election of people, than you would by appointment. I would like the Minister to try to say why, having regard to all of that, we actually need appointed members at all. Why not just go straight to an elected body this year and be done with it?

MATT DOOCEY (National—Waimakariri): I move, That the question be now put.

CLARE CURRAN (Labour—Dunedin South): What this Government will not say is that the justification for the extension of non-democracy in this bill is the continuation of central government’s control over regional government. That is what this Government will not say. It is pathetic to over and over again hear members of this Government—including the Minister in the chair today, the Hon Nick Smith, and the Prime Minister earlier today—get up and say that just because the previous Labour Government did something at some point in the past, then that is justification for whatever it is doing now, in the present, with no rational discussion around it, no evidence base, and nothing that is actually sensible to go with it. It is just saying “Look, Labour over there.”, then: “Ignore what we are doing here.” It is pathetic, and it happens almost every day in this House.

We know that there is a terrible process that has gone into this bill—my remarks in my contribution will be directed to clause 10(1), (2), (3), (4), and (5)—that has not allowed the public proper time for submissions on the actual bill. We know that the submitters were overwhelmingly opposed to this bill, and that is why we are describing it as an affront to democracy.

I want to take us back to look at when this bill actually came to the Local Government and Environment Committee and at some of the information that informed it, with direct reference to clause 10, “Process for electing members”. The regulatory impact statement, which was prepared by the Department of Internal Affairs and the Ministry for the Environment, noted in the summary that public consultation on what actually appears in this bill was confined to only the proposal for the preferred option of a mixed-model governance structure, rather than the range of options. There were, I think, three options in the original regulatory impact statement, but the actual public consultation was confined to only this mixed-model governance structure. The questions in the discussion document encouraged comment on the other solutions. Some submitters did so, but those ministries said it limited the ability to present full community views on other options. They also said—and this goes directly to the Minister’s comments when he spoke before—that although this mixed-model governance structure is based on a district health board model, the proposed governance model has an element of uncertainty as to its effectiveness, as it has not been used previously in a local government context.

That is the point. Although the Minister gets up and says “Oh, well, Labour did something in the past and, by the way, it’s based on a district health board model.”, the thing is that it is uncertain as to whether or not that would work for a regional council.

When the original consultation occurred, there were 13 submissions received from local authorities—nine Canterbury councils and the Horizons Regional Council, the Waikato Regional Council, the Otago Regional Council, and the Canterbury Mayoral Forum. As you would expect, six of those nine submissions received from the Canterbury councils—and, of course, these are the ones that are going to get representation under this mixed-model governance structure, as is referenced in clause 10. Of the seven elected members, three of them are going to be from those regional Canterbury councils. They supported the mixed-model proposal, but only five supported it as it was set out in the discussion document. The Ashburton District Council was concerned about the ratio of elected members—

JAN LOGIE (Green): I rise to take a short call on Part 2 of the Environment Canterbury (Transitional Governance Arrangements) Bill. I would like to speak to two points specifically. One is, I think, that the concept of this undermining and removing of our democracy—even more than being an affront to it—has been quite well canvassed, but I do want to talk about that a little bit more. I would also like to talk about the concept of subsidiarity. In terms of local government in New Zealand, there are two core concepts that govern the ruling of local government, and they are democracy and subsidiarity, which is the localised decision-making and devolved powers. That is quite commonly understood as good governance, and this legislation is messing with that, to put it bluntly.

With this bill, the responsible Ministers from here in Wellington will get to appoint six members representing the perspectives of those two appointing Ministers from being based here. Neither of them are based in Canterbury, and there is no requirement for at least four of those members to be of that area. Of course, two will be nominated by Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu, and that is a provision that the Green Party actually supported. But there is no question that this bill is a compromise on the core principle of subsidiarity, which is that local decision-making is more likely to produce better results, and that people who are embedded in a community and who are accountable to the community they are representing are more likely to produce better governance.

I do want to point out, too, that in Part 2 the Ministers have the discretion to remove appointed members at any time, and that includes the members who have been nominated by Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu. The Ministers would be required to only consult before they do that. Really, that is a lot of control. It is also, I would suggest, a removal of the stability for the area, that there cannot be—we know at the moment that people are elected and that it is actually quite a disincentive for people to leave while they still have a position because they know they will be forcing an election if they leave before their term is up, whereas this legislation is enabling Ministers to remove somebody if they are not doing what those Ministers like and to just put somebody else in. We have no guarantee of the people’s control, but we also do not have a guarantee of stability, whereas one of the Minister for the Environment’s arguments for this entire transitional model is to ensure continuity. Actually, for us, there is no guarantee of that continuity. This legislation, I think, gives us less assurance of continuity than if we had elected members.

I do want to just again speak to that point of democracy. Although the Government has provisions in here that focus on skills and expertise, it has to be pointed out that there are council staff who could provide skill and expertise alongside the voice and the decision making of democratically elected people. There have also been changes—which we did not necessarily support—to the Local Government Act that enable the Minister to appoint observers to sit alongside councils, so that the Government can have that assurance if it has concerns about the functioning of a council. That could also provide that so-called continuity. No justification that makes any sense to me has been made to say why we need to have six out of 13 members appointed. I have not heard any case to say why the people of Canterbury do not deserve their democracy back.

RINO TIRIKATENE (Labour—Te Tai Tonga): I am pleased to make a contribution on Part 2. I want to just pick up on the points that Mr O’Rourke make in relation to clause 11(1A) and (1B). Those provisions give Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu the right to appoint two members to this transitional body. I do want to commend the majority of the Local Government and Environment Committee for their support of the insertion of those provisions because, notwithstanding the deep concern that I have around the principle of full democracy for the people of Canterbury, I do support the principle of mana whenua representation at the regional council level on Environment Canterbury.

I do not necessarily want to try to lecture Mr O’Rourke—we have different views and we represent different constituencies—but it is fundamental, and this was recognised by the committee itself, that Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu is the tribal authority over 80 percent of Te Wai Pounamu, the South Island. It has significant interests in the management of Canterbury’s natural resources. It goes without saying that Canterbury is part of who we are as a people. The landscapes, the mountains, the rivers, the land, the coast, the sea—all of that is just part and parcel of mana whenua.

There has long been jurisprudence and, most recently, Treaty settlements that affirm those rights. That has been continued in the positive relationship the Crown has—no matter which Government is in power; no matter which parties—to ensure that we promote and support those Treaty relationships. So I do support the insertion of those provisions.

But my question, I guess, is: where to after 3 years? What will mana whenua representation be, at a regional council level, after 2019? At the moment, Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu has been intimately involved in the first phase of commissioners, through the requirement that there be expertise in tikanga Māori and also knowledge of the Canterbury area—well, you can only really go to Ngāi Tahu for that. That has been reaffirmed in the provisions in clause 11, which I have been referring to.

But where to from there? There is now a precedent that has been set, a wonderful precedent, whereby the mana whenua have been recognised to appoint representatives on to the regional council, on to Environment Canterbury. I am sure that every other iwi up and down the country will now be wanting to have the exact same rights, and rightly so—rightly so. If it is good enough for those from Ngāi Tahu to be able to appoint two out of a hybrid type of transitional body, every other iwi will have the right to assert that they have the exact same status. They can actually add their contribution to enhance the decision making that goes on at that level, and that is all Māori have ever wanted.

We want to be equal partners in the decision making that goes on at all levels of Aotearoa. This provision does that to an extent, but it sets a very, very strong precedent for every other iwi and every other regional council across the country as to what can happen. We have seen this in the recognition for Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu through similar legislation, like the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority legislation and the legislation that we passed just last week to regenerate Christchurch, as well. It has carried on into—

NUK KORAKO (National): I move, That the question be now put.

The CHAIRPERSON (Hon Trevor Mallard): No, I am not going to accept the closure motion now because to date there has been, I think it is fair to say, fierce debate and debate with slightly different alliances and with members of parties with different points of view. I do not think that we have had much repetition, and, actually, the speeches have mainly been relevant.

KRIS FAAFOI (Labour—Mana): Mr Chair, I hope that I can continue the relevancy that you have just commented on. I do want to pick up where my colleague Rino Tirikatene finished his speech, because he did want to make one point. The point around clause 11(1A), and potentially a question that I have for the Minister in the chair, Nick Smith, is that, yes, it is an improvement on this piece of legislation that two of the members appointed to the Environment Canterbury board must be recommended by Ngāi Tahu. The principle on this side is that we do not agree with having Government appointees to this board and so we will not be supporting that, but the inclusion of Ngāi Tahu representation is an improvement.

Mr Tirikatene talked about a precedent being set here. Actually, I think the precedent was set in a piece of legislation that went through this House last week, the Greater Christchurch Regeneration Bill, where we saw much more consultation from the Government with the people of Canterbury. It was not just with Ngāi Tahu; there was also an onus put on Regenerate Christchurch to seek wider input about things that it wants to do in Christchurch. My question to the Minister is: why is there not the same spirit in this piece of legislation? I think the Local Government and Environment Committee made a good start to it by including Ngāi Tahu within the realms of clause 11, but why did you not go further? Why did you not use the template used by Gerry Brownlee in the Greater Christchurch Regeneration Bill to include and to allow more of a local voice, when you had started that process with clauses 11(1A) and 11(1B)? Clauses 11(1A) and (1B) operationalise the ability for the Government to appoint up to six members to the Environment Canterbury board—something for which a case had been made in Part 1, an argument that we disagree with.

As the Chair has said, there has been a lot of fierce debate within this Committee. There has also been debate by people who have submitted, and also some facts have been pointed out by officials around the dubious nature of not putting this out to a wider vote, a complete vote, for Cantabrians.

I mentioned some passages of the regulatory impact statement in my Part 1 speech, but I think the departmental disclosure statement in this instance is helpful here. It talks about concerns that the officials had about the objectives of the reform around the Government appointees in clauses 11(1A) and (1B), saying that these “contain clear trade-offs between perceptions of efficiency and environmental stewardship, and local democratic accountability.” It goes on to say that “These are difficult to balance without objective information about previous and potential regulatory outcomes, so the assessment of options largely relies on subjective valuations.”, which the Government obviously thinks rests on its side of the argument. It goes on to say that “The fact that no alternative options were consulted on, and that proposals from stakeholders have received limited consideration, suggests that the full range of feasible options has not been examined.”

In plain English, that is saying that the inclusion of clause 11(1A) and (1B), which allows the Government to appoint up to six commissioners to the Environment Canterbury board, is something that the Government has blindly done and that it did not look at any other options. It did not look at full democracy—it did not look at putting it out to the people of Canterbury. It made up its mind at the very beginning to put in this clause 11(1A) and (1B), which says that three members must be appointed by the responsible Ministers no later than 28 days after the transition day—I think that means when the other six members are elected—and that they can appoint three more under clause 11(1A) and (1B).

I would also like to pose to the Minister another question, around the intention of the appointment of board members. During his speeches from the chair he has said that it is about continuity, but back in 2010 it was something a lot different to continuity. If I can quote the Minister, he said: “The extent of the gap between the capability of ECan and what is required for it to adequately manage freshwater issues is enormous and unprecedented.” Fair enough—the Government can have that concern. He went on to say that “A very large backlog of outstanding issues needs to be addressed before water management in the region reaches”—

Su’a WILLIAM SIO (Labour—Māngere): I have got three points that I want to raise with regard to Part 2 of the Environment Canterbury (Transitional Governance Arrangements) Bill on this, the governance structure in the mixed model. They are three points that nobody else has raised in this Committee. The first point is that this legislation will undermine individual participation and the right of people to participate. The second point I would make is that this legislation will undermine local democracy and undermine the role of local government. The third point I would make is that this legislation will undermine our environmental protection.

Before I get on to those three points, I do want to say that I am happy to stand with my colleagues from the Canterbury region—Dr Megan Woods, Clayton Cosgrove, Poto Williams, the Hon Ruth Dyson, and Rino Tirikatene—to oppose this bill. It is important that we oppose this bill, and I will tell you why. I do not know very much about Canterbury. I do not know about Christchurch—I have visited it, and I have got contacts there—but I do know when I see injustice being done. The source of injustice is not the people of Canterbury; it is the Minister for the Environment, the Hon Nick Smith, and I will tell you why. I like the Minister—on a personal level he is a nice man—but his politics give all of us politicians a bad name, and I will tell you why. It is because this is the third time that we are in this House repealing previous legislation and enacting other legislation to continue his control over Canterbury.

That is the first point: this legislation and this mixed-model Government structure undermine the right of individuals to participate. I will give you an example: Father Paulo of the Samoan Catholic Church in Christchurch. I asked him the other day: “Are you aware of what is happening with your local council, with Environment Canterbury?”. He said: “No. We just do not participate now because the Government has taken full control.” He is actually right. The Government has taken full control because the make-up of this governance model is not completely as it should be—of representatives elected by the people. So in so far as Father Paulo and other communities in that area are concerned, they have been kept from participating because the Government has sent a very clear message—and it has been a consistent message since 2010, 2013, and now 2016—that it is in control and that the public of Canterbury does not have a role to play in this, and that it is this Government and it is this Minister who will determine how Environment Canterbury will be run. So that is the first point.

The second point, as I said, is that this legislation actually weakens local democracy and it weakens the role of local government. I point to the regulatory impact statement where it says that this is a “New and untested … structure, and could generate uncertainty”. Local government plans way ahead in time—not from 3 years to 3 years. In fact, we gave it a piece of legislation where we said to it: “You have got to plan long term.” We are not giving local government any certainty, because we are saying now what we said back in 2010-11, which was “You will have this model up to 2019.”, but there is no certainty at all.

Let me give you another example. The regulatory impact statement says that there will be “Significant change in local government powers; risks of blurred or unclear accountability”. That is the risk identified by the regulatory impact statement. The Minister said earlier that this is the same model that we use for the district health boards. That is like comparing apples with oranges. This is local government, which is run on the rates or the taxes that are paid for by the citizens of that area. The district health boards are funded from a ministry of the National Government. What will happen here is you have got two sources of accountability.

BARBARA KURIGER (National—Taranaki - King Country): I move, That the question be now put.

A party vote was called for on the question, That the question be now put.

Ayes 63 New Zealand National 59; Māori Party 2; ACT New Zealand 1; United Future 1.
Noes 58 New Zealand Labour 32; Green Party 14; New Zealand First 12.
Motion agreed to.

A party vote was called for on the question, That Part 2 be agreed to.

Ayes 63 New Zealand National 59; Māori Party 2; ACT New Zealand 1; United Future 1.
Noes 58 New Zealand Labour 32; Green Party 14; New Zealand First 12.
Part 2 agreed to.

Part 3 RMA arrangements during transition period

DENIS O’ROURKE (NZ First): I want to talk particularly about clause 23, which I will read. It says: “In considering any proposed fresh water plan or regional policy statement during the transition period, Environment Canterbury must have particular regard to the vision and principles of the Canterbury Water Management Strategy in addition to the matters relevant under the RMA to its decisions made under clause 10(1) of Schedule 1 of that Act.” Clause 19 has a similar effect. What it basically does is entrench the Canterbury Water Management Strategy.

I want to tackle Minister Nick Smith over this, because when I was speaking earlier and I said that was the case, he was shaking his head as though this is not the case. In fact, the Canterbury Water Management Strategy is entrenched in this bill, which, therefore, calls into question why you need appointed members in order to protect the Canterbury Water Management Strategy. Perhaps the Minister could explain to us all, when the bill specifically does entrench that strategy—which is, in fact, there, which is, in fact, in operation, which is, in fact, being observed, and which is entrenched in this bill—why it is now necessary to have appointed members so that that can be protected. That simply does not make any sense to me at all, because it is already in existence. I think that the Minister and the Government’s rationale for the need for appointed members actually fall apart because of that.

In fact, what could have been done with this bill is that it could have established a fully elected regional council without any appointed members and still have clauses 23 and 19 in order to entrench the Canterbury Water Management Strategy, which is, really, the whole crux of the entire process: to make sure that there was an effective water management strategy for Canterbury. The Minister has said so, and everybody else has said so—well, actually, it is there. It is in operation and, in this bill, is being entrenched. So, again, I ask the Minister: why, then, are you insisting on appointed members?

Dr MEGAN WOODS (Labour—Wigram): In Part 3 I would like to take a call on clauses 24, 25, and 26, which set out the appeal rights that exist under this legislation. These parts of the legislation were subject to a number of submissions at the select committee phase, and the people who did take the opportunity to submit on these clauses and the appeal rights that are contained in this legislation were very much opposed to the limiting of the powers of appeal rights. What this legislation does is carry over some provisions that were there under the previous legislation that defined regional governance in Canterbury—the Environment Canterbury (Temporary Commissioners and Improved Water Management) Act 2010—and it replaces requirements in section 55 under that Act. What it does is take away from Cantabrians the rights that everyone else around the country has, and that is the right to make appeals to the Environment Court. What this legislation puts in place is that these appeals need to be to the High Court.

This is not some small, dry technicality buried in the 20-something clauses of a piece of legislation; this fundamentally changes the way in which people can interact with the decision that their local regional council is making. As we all know, the Environment Court is a special court in New Zealand. Not only does it have specialist judges but also it is assisted by specialist commissioners who have expertise in resource management, in planning, in environmental planning, in engineering, and in science who can be called in. This is a court that can take a much more inquisitorial approach to any appeal that is put before it, unlike the High Court, where these appeals will be on matters of law only. Whereas people in other parts of the country can go and appeal a decision of their regional council and what it is doing on the basis of the substance and the facts of what is actually happening, Cantabrians are limited in their appeal rights to only matters of law. This fundamentally changes the way in which this legislation operates.

This is, of course, a change that Minister Nick Smith, who is sitting in the chair, has been wanting to get across the line in terms of the Resource Management Act throughout the country, but he has been unable to get that across the line with his support partners. So what he is doing here, in clauses 24, 25, and 26, is trying to impose it in some kind of pilot study on Cantabrians. I do not think it is good enough that just because the Minister cannot get his resource management legislation over the line in this Parliament, he decides that Canterbury is some kind of Petri dish where he can put in place different kinds of appeal provisions, such as we are seeing in clauses 24, 25, and 26 of this legislation. I would like the Minister to take a call and explain to us why it is that Cantabrians will have lesser appeal rights than their contemporaries and their compatriots in other parts of the country, because this does have far-ranging impacts on how it is that Cantabrians are going to interact with their regional council, and what their rights are.

I would also like the Minister to talk about what alternatives might be available to Cantabrians to take an appeal to the High Court, because, whereas someone could access funding through the environmental legal aid fund, which was established to aid people in taking appeals to the Environment Court, will there be a similar fund for Cantabrians who want to appeal a decision that is made under this piece of legislation but are forced to take that appeal to the High Court on a matter of law, which is a much more expensive process and, actually, will limit people’s ability to have access to justice around this? Will there be a similar fund to the legal aid fund that is available for people taking cases to the Environment Court?

This is about access to justice. We are seeing that this is a Government that is eager to shut down people’s access to the courts and their ability to get their day in court and to have those questions answered, in many aspects of Christchurch and Canterbury at the moment. I would like the Minister to take a call on that, and I look forward to hearing from him.

Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister for the Environment): I am delighted to be able to answer the questions that both Denis O’Rourke and Megan Woods have asked about Part 3 of the Environment Canterbury (Transitional Governance Arrangements) Bill. Can I deal, firstly, with the issue of the Canterbury Water Management Strategy, of which I think both Mr O’Rourke and I share the view that it was a good piece of work. It was developed collaboratively by the people of Canterbury. It was actually developed by a large amount of work from the mayors and the other councils in Canterbury because they were so frustrated about a lack of progress on water management by the previous Environment Canterbury.

But here is the key point that Mr O’Rourke has missed: the Canterbury Water Management Strategy has no legal status. You can have a strategy—sure, you can have a strategy—but it has absolutely no legal effect unless it is recognised in law. We recognised it in law in 2010 with the Environment Canterbury legislation and we are recognising it here as a document that Environment Canterbury needs to take into account as it completes the exercise of putting water rules in place in Canterbury.

Denis O’Rourke: Exactly. They are the basis of it.

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: If Mr O’Rourke’s position is actually to take effect, what he is effectively saying is “Great. Canterbury has a water management strategy but it has absolutely no legal status anywhere.”, and that, to me, seems an extremely illogical position. I challenge him. If he really believes in the Canterbury Water Management Strategy he will vote for this bill, because it is the only way of giving it any legal status in the management of water under the Resource Management Act. That can be done only with this bill.

I now want to come to the question that has been raised by Megan Woods. It is an important one. It is around the appeal rights and it goes to the heart of the challenge around water in Canterbury. You see, under the existing schedule 1 process of the Resource Management Act the average time for getting a plan in place is 8 years, Actually, in the water area it has been even longer than that—more like 15 years—and here is the challenge for Parliament: can Canterbury wait 7 to 15 years to get some rules in place for fresh water? I do not think any member in this Chamber would honestly say that is true.

If I listen to the questions of Labour environment spokesperson, David Parker, in the Chamber today, what he is rightly arguing is that, actually, we need to get some rules around agricultural intensification and other things a lot more quickly than that. But here is the dilemma for Labour members. They cannot argue in one breath that we cannot have any change in the process of submissions, of cross-submissions, and appeals on putting water plans in place. You cannot have that position and simultaneously argue that you want to get some progress urgently made on getting some constraints and some rules on the water pollution issues in a region like Canterbury.

That is why—and this is the hybrid, and I openly say to the Parliament that it is a hybrid—we want to be able to appoint people with judicial skills on to Environment Canterbury over the next 3 years. I pay absolute tribute in this Chamber to the work of Environment Canterbury commissioner Peter Skelton, one of New Zealand’s most experienced Environment Court judges. We appointed him on to the commission so that we could have a hybrid process of judicial rights, judicial skills, and other skills in a single-step process.

Dr Megan Woods: That is horrifying. That is not an appeal right.

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: That is what we are doing with this bill quite deliberately, I say to Megan Woods. We do not have time in Canterbury to have the normal long schedule 1 process to get not just the natural resources plan, which the commissioners have done, but the specific rules for each of the catchments of Canterbury. The best way, we believe, to do that is to have a hybrid process, not have appeals to the Environment Court but ensure that you have got people like Peter Skelton on the process of setting those rules, region by region, so we can actually get the rules in place. That is where Part 3 in providing for no appeals to the Environment Court is the quid pro quo to ensuring that the Government can appoint those judicial skills and make sure that we get these rules in place once—but that we get it right—and in my view that is the best way forward for Canterbury.

EUGENIE SAGE (Green): I think that last speech by the Minister for the Environment shows what a muddle we are getting into with resource management in New Zealand. As I understand what he was saying, it was that people with judicial experience will be appointed as the commissioners on Environment Canterbury. They will be hearing the submissions on the plans, and yet, under the resource legislation, the changes that the Minister is making to the Resource Management Act are aimed at reducing the role of elected councillors in making decisions on plan submissions. So we are going to get completely different regimes around the country.

In this call I would like to talk specifically about the plan-making provisions in clause 19 of the Environment Canterbury (Transitional Governance Arrangements) Bill, because what the Local Government and Environment Committee did was restrict the scope of this clause slightly so that it applied only to freshwater plans and the regional policy statement, though I suspect there will be debate about what happens with estuaries.

The Government has been very mischievous here. At the same time as the Minister has criticised the elected council for being too slow, the Government is now giving this hybrid model 9 years, until 2019, and giving the commissioners 9 years to develop new plans, and yet it is not just shutting off the appeal rights for plans that the second-class model has finalised—it has heard the submissions, it has made the decisions, and then it has said there is no ability to appeal to the Environment Court—but it is also shutting off the appeal rights to the Environment Court for plans that the regional council has simply notified before they have gone through that whole submission and hearing process.

So it means that this bill is going to extend its impact way beyond 2019, because Environment Canterbury will be able to notify any freshwater plans in the dying days of the hybrid model in mid-2019, and the public in Canterbury still will not be able to appeal that plan because of the effect of this legislation applying to notified plans and not just to plans on which the council has made decisions. To me that highlights the Government’s desire to absolutely control the way in which plan making is done in Canterbury, and the way in which the rule regime will work to ensure that you get a regime that irrigators and water users like, rather than one that actually protects fresh water.

We have seen, with the collaborative process that the Minister is so proud of in Canterbury, environmental organisations and Fish and Game being highly critical of that being captured by irrigators, and users walking away from the process. And so the decisions on what the plan should be will be made increasingly by zone committees and the council, with appointed members on it. It will not have the check, which appeal rights to the Environment Court provide, for everybody to be able to challenge those provisions because, as Megan Woods has noted, there is no appeal right to the Environment Court, only on points of law to the High Court, which is a much more circumscribed process. So not only is this bill about undermining local democracy but in this part it is also about constraining access to justice by removing the ability to appeal to the Environment Court, not only between now and 2019 but well beyond that, for all of those plans that Environment Canterbury may notify in the last dying days of the hybrid model in 2019.

The other issue I would like to talk about in this part is clause 21, about water conservation orders. There was a report in 2011 by the New Zealand Conservation Authority, which the Minister will be familiar with, that highlighted that we have not done enough in New Zealand to protect our rivers and lakes and waterways. The Resource Management Act and the definition of sustainable management is about use, development, and protection, but too much of the decision making and the plan making focuses on use and development and very little of it focuses on protection. Water conservation orders have been the major mechanism that Fish and Game and conservation groups have used to implement a degree of protection, particularly around flows rather than water quality.

This Government, with the principal Act, totally overrode the provision for a water conservation order for the magnificent Hurunui River. It retrospectively prevented the Environment Court from hearing appeals on that water conservation order, and now, in clause 21, the Government is providing for the same processes that apply around the rest of New Zealand to again apply in Canterbury. We should welcome that, because it is one area where Canterbury is not being singled out for a second-class regime. But—and there is a big “but” here—at the same time as the Minister is giving back the law around water conservation orders to Canterbury, rather than the weakened regime that exists in the principal Act where he had the provisions around development having to be given greater weight than the normal Resource Management Act requirements in Part 9 of the Act, which are much more about the protection of outstanding values, in the Resource Legislation Amendment Bill that is a major attack on water conservation orders.

So we will get it back in Canterbury for a short time, and then it will be taken away if the Resource Legislation Amendment Bill goes through. Minister Nick Smith is shaking his head, but, Minister, in the Resource Legislation Amendment Bill you are making the requirements of Part 9 subservient to the development requirements of other provisions in the Act. That is fundamentally weakening water conservation orders.

So, once again, this Government, in this bill, is undermining the protection provisions of the Resource Management Act. It is removing access to justice in terms of the independent Environment Court. So that means that the decisions that the zone committees and this new hybrid council make on plans will have much greater weight. They will be less able to be challenged, because of the removal of that appeal right. It is weakening the protection provisions in the Resource Management Act.

Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE (Labour): I want to refer to clauses 24 and 25 in respect of appeal rights, particularly clause 24(3), and revisit some of the arguments that the previous two speakers have noted. I want to note the comments that the Minister made in respect of former Environment Court judge Peter Skelton. He quite rightly pointed out that Judge Skelton is one of New Zealand’s pre-eminent environmental justices, a man with huge skill and a history in these particular issues. Then, on the other hand, he was silent, or tried to justify—I cannot recall which—the taking away of appeal rights to the specialist and highly skilled Environment Court, which, as others have said, is highly qualified and far more qualified, I would argue, than the High Court. It has a process that is inquisitorial and far less prescriptive than the High Court, where you can deal with substantive issues and not just appeal on matters of law.

So again we see a sort of inherent contradiction. On the one hand, the Minister acknowledges that he wants people of skill, in the form of Judge Skelton, and I accept that. He justifies that because he wants people who know what they are doing. He wants people who are embedded and have a history of influence, who are in Judge Skelton’s place—an eminent jurist in respect of environmental matters. But, of course, he then says: “Well, if you want to appeal, sorry. We’re not going to allow you to appeal, like every other person can, outside the Environment Canterbury boundaries, around New Zealand, to the specialist court and jurisdiction, the Environment Court—no. The parties will only be able to appeal to the High Court and those appeals will only be on points of law.”

So the question I have for Minister Nick Smith is: what is the justification for that? Like other questions we have put to the Minister in respect of the extension to 2019 and the justification for that, there has been no answer to it. So on the one hand you want—quite logical—specialist people, experienced people, people with the inherent legal skills that you require to make decisions on these issues, and on the other hand you say: “No, we’re not going to allow parties to be exposed to the court of record, the specialist Environmental Court that has been set up for many, many years, specifically to deal with those issues.”

I grant you, I am sure there are a number of High Court judges—all High Court judges I am sure would argue that they can decide matters across any jurisdiction. That is the function of a High Court judge. However, you would have to argue that issues of a technical nature, that are of a specific environmental nature, should reside within the Environment Court. Otherwise why have it? Why bother? Get rid of it and just ensure that the court of record is the High Court, to deal with all issues, technical and otherwise. They could do that but I do not think that would be logical.

So the question for the Minister is: why is there a contradiction? What is the justification for limiting appeals, or for preventing appeals, I should say, from going to the Environment Court and requiring them to go to the High Court as in clause 24(3)? What is the point? I would argue that, just like the constriction around democracy, this is about control. Just like the notion that Cantabrians cannot be trusted to elect good leadership from within their community, without being babysat by commissioners, this is about control. This is about control and limiting the rights of people, both in a democratic sense but, as other speakers have said, in respect of access to justice.

They are pretty heavy actions to take as a Government. We could make reference to other jurisdictions, as has been referenced, actually, by the Minister, quite bizarrely—his reference to Sitiveni Rabuka and the Fiji coup, in a former speech in the last hour or so. In other jurisdictions that do not value democracy as we in this Parliament in New Zealand do, those jurisdictions are more likely to embark down these sorts of paths where you halt elections, where you appoint Government folk who are not accountable to those people who elect them—they are accountable to Ministers in a Government—and you restrict the ability of people to exercise their legal rights and, more especially, their appeal rights.

The Minister, in answer to some of those questions, especially around the issues that I have posed, cited district health boards and said: “Well, you know”—the usual sort of stuff—“Labour sacked a district health board, and x, y, and z, and how can we get up and have the views we do?”. Well, there are times in Government when you do actually have to sack some people if they are not actually performing. We would acknowledge that. That is a logical thing to do. But in respect of the district health boards, there are a couple of differences. The first is that those district health boards were then rapidly reinstated. The same—the Minister mentioned in his speech—goes for the sacking of school boards where one puts in a commissioner. But, again, unlike this piece of legislation, those school boards, as a general rule, are pretty rapidly, once the situation has stabilised, converted back to elected boards of trustees.

The third point in respect of district health boards and school boards, but especially district health boards, is that they derive their income directly from the Government—the taxpayer, via the Crown. They are totally Crown funded—totally Crown funded—whereas Environment Canterbury, of course, apart from some transport funding and others, derives the vast majority, the overwhelming majority, of its funding from the local ratepayer. That is the difference. Do you know the old saying “No taxation without representation.”? It is a bit of a cliché, but it is probably apt in this debate today.

I am surprised that the Minister, again as I have said in other speeches, holds the view that he does. Actually, his view where he said that “Democracy is risky.”—at least he is being honest about that, because as we go through these parts and specifically this part about constricting and preventing the rights to take appeals to the Environment Court and restricting them to the High Court, that actually provides evidence that he was telling the truth when he said “Democracy is risky.” I would put it to Government members—there are a few foreign affairs specialists over there—that those are the sorts of attitudes and those are the sorts of actions one would expect from some Third World jurisdictions, not from a First World country called New Zealand. But the Minister believes it. It is probably the most honest statement he has made, and these actions actually provide evidence that he believes this.

So I would like to ask perhaps the Minister in the chair, the Hon Nikki Kaye, even though it is not her portfolio, whether she could shed some light on the contradictions that I have pointed out in respect of the High Court and the Environment Court. I think the people of Canterbury are owed some specific explanations, not just a lot of clichés and a lot of lip-service. They have lived with this for 9 years. Gerry Brownlee has seen the light, given Cantabrians back a lot of power in respect of the earthquake legislation, yet a week later we have this, which is pretty heavy-duty, Draconian legislation. The Minister, sort of, gives various commitments. He gave commitments in 2013 and he broke his word. So we wait with bated breath.

  • Sitting suspended from 6 p.m. to 7.30 p.m.

KRIS FAAFOI (Labour—Mana): I believe we are on Part 3 and schedule 3 of the bill—

The CHAIRPERSON (Hon Chester Borrows): It is all about water.

KRIS FAAFOI: Pardon?

The CHAIRPERSON (Hon Chester Borrows): It is all about water, is it not?

KRIS FAAFOI: Right. Yes, it is. Correct. That is correct, Mr Chair. You are right. Ha, ha! I would like to pay particular attention to schedule 3, if I am able to. It is, I believe, a document that was authored in late 2009 around the vision and principles of the Canterbury Water Management Strategy. I want to focus first on the vision statement that it has. It states that the vision for the strategy is “To enable present and future generations to gain the greatest social, economic, recreational and cultural benefits from our water resources within an environmentally sustainable framework.” As a vision statement goes, I do not think anyone in this Committee would have too much of a problem with that as a vision statement. The problem we have though, as in within other parts of this bill—Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3—is the lack of public ability to be able to democratically choose a body to try to achieve that vision statement.

I think the vision statement, as it stands, is a very worthy one, but I think the public, and especially the people of Canterbury, deserve the right to be able to elect an Environment Canterbury board to try to achieve the vision that that schedule 3 sets out. I do not think it is overly complicated. I think that, potentially, people who were elected to an Environment Canterbury board could achieve that vision statement, but my question to the Minister in the chair—and I realise Hon Dr Nick Smith is not in the chair at the moment—is about why he believes that a fully elected Environment Canterbury board cannot achieve that vision statement.

The only guide I have is some of the previous statements Dr Smith has made in this part of this debate. He already has a completely different vision statement than what is set out in schedule 3, because he wants to try to achieve that in a particular way, which a democratically elected board, he believes, in his opinion, would not be able to achieve. So my question to the Minister in the chair is: why has the Government chosen to not take a fully democratic role or process to ensure there is a fully elected board of Environment Canterbury to achieve that vision statement?

Schedule 3 goes on, then, to outline some of the regional approaches that the Environment Canterbury board—whether it be fully elected or a mixed model, as within this piece of legislation—has to go about its business. I think there are two points that I want to point out, which are on page 26, one of them being “A consistent regulatory approach to water is applied throughout the Canterbury region, recognising these principles.” One of the concerns that we have had is that because there is going to be a different regime for Christchurch, you may have different rules for Christchurch or Canterbury and different regimes for other parts of New Zealand. That is clearly pointed out in schedule 3.

Then the other quirky one that is in No. 2, under schedule 3, there is a slight contradiction in the way that it wants to approach water management in Canterbury but also elect a board that is going to manage the process of managing water in Canterbury. That is dot point six, where it says: “A cautious approach is taken when information is uncertain, unreliable, or inadequate.” So we have got to be cautious when there is a very murky picture with the water, but we are not so cautious when it comes to the democratic process of electing the people who are tasked with carrying out this vision statement.

We have pointed out a number of times in the debate on Part 1, the debate on Part 2, and some of my colleagues have done a very good job of pointing it out in this part of the debate, that we have serious concerns around the lack of full democratic ability of the people of Canterbury to elect the board. We do have a mixed model here, which will elect the board around the water management system.

The CHAIRPERSON (Hon Chester Borrows): Order! I just want to make a point to the member, and maybe to others who are wishing to follow on after him, and I will give him the call when I finish making this point. The fact is that it does get a bit repetitive when the same point is made over and over and over again around the democratic process, which, as everybody has heard, is made in the various parts all the way through. But just because the same point is made under each different part does not mean that it is not repetitive. So what I suggest the member and members wishing to take a call do is to dig in to the meat of these provisions and to debate them rather than go back and make the same point over and over and over again, because that is repetition, and as members will well know, being students of the Standing Orders, whether or not it is repetition is the province of the guy sitting in this seat.

KRIS FAAFOI: I thank you for your guidance in that matter, Mr Chair. Just to put the Chair at ease, I was just coming to the end of that particular point, and I wanted to raise the other issue that is in Part 3 around the judicial process either contained or not contained within this part. The Minister in the chair noted, without naming names, that instead of allowing there to be an appeal process, he was considering—and he almost laid out that he was almost certainly going to do this—appoint a former Environment Court judge to the Canterbury board to do away with the need for an appeal process, because the learned judge would be on the board and so he would be able to use his skills to be able to adjudicate in an instance where there may be some contest.

In that respect—and I am not going to labour this point, Mr Chair, because it has been made, and repetition is not something that you want to see in this debate—we have concern around that, because the judicial process in many other areas is set up to make sure that there is an avenue, and to see that judicial process usurped or worked around by a Minister because we have got someone with the skills on the board is not a practice we want to see made a constant practice. We do have concerns around that. It is not, in our eyes, the proper process. He may have the skills, indeed, to make the call, but in terms of setting up the process so the people of Canterbury can have absolute confidence that if they do have issues and they do need to work through these water management issues and there is an appeal, then having someone on the board itself who just happens to have those skills, who has experience in the Environment Court is, in our eyes, not good enough.

It needs to be a robust process. It needs to be a transparent process. In our eyes that is not robust and that is not transparent—just co-opting someone with those skills on to the board. Maybe the Minister in the chair may like to answer some of those questions.

Dr MEGAN WOODS (Labour—Wigram): I am happy to take another call on Part 3 of the Environment Canterbury (Transitional Governance Arrangements) Bill and to pick up where my colleague Kris Faafoi finished off.

In an earlier call on this part, I asked the Minister in the chair, the Hon Nick Smith, some questions pertaining to the appeal rights that are contained in clauses 24 through 26 of this legislation, and I have to say that the Minister’s response that it is OK because we are going to appoint judges to Environment Canterbury so you do not need to have appeals to the Environment Court was truly one of the most terrifying things I have heard said in this Chamber, and I have heard many terrifying things. The idea that a Minister will stand in this Committee and say “We do not need robust appeal rights in a piece of legislation because we are going to make judges the people making the decisions.”—the whole point of appeal rights is that if you do not agree with the decision, then there is a robust process of where you can take it from there. So I think we will keep asking questions of the Minister in the chair, because this piece of legislation, which we have wholeheartedly opposed from the very beginning, seems to be getting worse and worse with the utterance of the Minister.

The further question in terms of Part 3 that I would like to put to the Minister who is currently sitting in the chair, Minister Goodhew, is around the functions of what Environment Canterbury will do. What we are seeing in Part 3—the clauses that are through there—which is as close to the functions as the legislation gets, and in schedule 3, which Part 3 refers to, is that it is very much about the management of water in Canterbury. All through the passage of this legislation we have heard time and time again from the Minister, the Hon Nick Smith, that the whole basis of the need back in 2010 to throw out an elected council and put in place Government appointees was because of the Creech report, which pointed to problems with the governance in Canterbury.

I think that Part 3 is also notable for what it does not include and for what it does include. The only function that is talked about here is water management, but the Creech report was not only about water management in Canterbury; it also pointed to another flaw in Environment Canterbury, one that it said did need to have some attention paid to it. That was that it recommended a review of the transport functions of Environment Canterbury, particularly matters of public transport, given the concentration of transport functions in urban areas, especially Christchurch, within that body.

People outside that area may not understand the very sliced and diced way that public transport operates in Canterbury. For the bus system, for example, within Christchurch City Environment Canterbury sets the routes, but it is the job of the Christchurch City Council to place the bus stops. That is an authority delegated to community boards. So we have one body that decides where the buses are going to go, and another one that has to deal with the infrastructure around those. It has long been our contention—and it was something that we did hear very much through the submission process on this bill—that it was not just these water functions in Part 3 that Cantabrians wanted. They also thought that if there was anything that was going to be happening in terms of us having an examination of the role of Environment Canterbury, it should also include a functional examination, and one of those functions should be ways in which we could have more integrated approaches to transport planning in our region.

I think that when the Government talks about this being a piece of legislation that is required as part of the response to the regeneration of Christchurch there could be no greater need than to get integrated approaches to our transport planning, and I think we see that around the edges, where Christchurch City borders with other councils, whether that be in Mr Doocey’s area of Waimakariri or over the border in Selwyn. We see that we have growing and pressing needs for urban development that is taking place outside the boundaries of Christchurch City and we see the need to have strong and stable public transport links to those. The fact that this bill does not address it, that there is no function examination, and that it is confined solely to water is something that we think—if you actually were going to do anything around Environment Canterbury, taking the opportunity to do something truly progressive like looking at how it is that we could have public transport that was fit for the 21st century—

JAN LOGIE (Green): I just rise to take a short call specifically addressing clauses 24 to 26 and the limitations on the right of appeal, specifically for water conservation orders. In this bill it is saying that the community cannot appeal to the Environment Court. The only right of appeal that people will have after this bill passes is to the High Court on a point of law, which is a very significant restriction of the right of appeal.

I do want to address the Minister for the Environment’s response to concerns being raised about this, where he said that we should not be worried about the reason for limiting the right of appeal, because he would probably be appointing a judge—he mentioned Judge Skelton—to Environment Canterbury so that those environmental judicial skills would be on that board. This is not a repetition of the concerns around democracy, but it is very closely aligned to them, because we have core constitutional frameworks in this country: democracy and the rule of law and the independence of our courts. For the Minister to say “You don’t need a right of appeal because I’ve bought you a judge and I’m putting him on my council.” seems to me to be an extraordinary statement and an absolute erosion of our constitutional framework, and one that really needs to be answered. I really do want to hear the Minister tell us that that is not what he meant, because it is something I think that all New Zealanders should be deeply concerned about, if they were to find out that a Minister is so cavalier about the importance of the independence of our courts as to think that he could buy that judge and put him on the decision-making panel and that we have no need for any scrutiny or independence. If that is not what he is saying, how is he going to assure that independence on points, beyond just points of law, around the absolute rights that go to and the concerns that people normally take to the Environment Court?

These are really, really important issues for the people of Canterbury. It is about ensuring they have the same rights as everyone else in New Zealand and that our system is functioning effectively, because that is why we set up our system with independent courts and a democracy: to be able to deliver for people in a way that we know works. It may not be the quickest decision-making. It may not result in decisions that we always agree with, but we know that when we start eroding those systems we actually risk everything, because it is what our society is founded on: those two core principles. It is deeply worrying to hear them compromised so blithely by the Minister.

I would refer back to, again, the comment from the Law Society, which was talking about those constitutional values and the unalterable fundamentals being our legal system and our democracy and the independence of that legal system, and I do hope to hear the Minister stand up and correct us for how we all seem to have interpreted his statements.

RINO TIRIKATENE (Labour—Te Tai Tonga): I am pleased to take a call on Part 3. I would like to return to what my colleague Mr Faafoi was explaining before with regard to the Canterbury Water Management Strategy. I believe that there is an internal inconsistency in the bill, because the Minister for the Environment earlier mentioned that the Canterbury Water Management Strategy had no force in law, yet a key part of that strategy—the vision and the principles—is expressed in this legislation in schedule 3. So in effect it does have the force of law because it is in the legislation. Although there is clause 19A(2), it is unclear, because in my mind if the text of that particular Canterbury Water Management Strategy is in the legislation, then it is law—it is law. It forms part of this piece of legislation. In my mind, the Minister was quite misleading in terms of saying that it had a lesser relevance.

I would like to turn to the actual body of those visions and principles, because I think they are very relevant. In particular, I would like to focus on the third clause of schedule 3, “Kaitiakitanga”. It is wonderful to see that “The exercise of kaitiakitanga by Ngai Tahu applies to all water and lakes, rivers, hapua, waterways and wetlands, and shall be carried out in accordance with tikanga Maori.” That is a wonderful primary principle that has been expressed in this legislation. As a result, I actually think that that reinforces the standing that Ngāi Tahu has, through its ability to appoint two appointees to Environment Canterbury. So I do commend that particular section of the vision and the mission.

If we carry on down to clause 5 of schedule 3, “Indigenous biodiversity”, it says: “Indigenous flora and fauna and their habitats in rivers, streams, lakes, groundwater and wetlands are protected and valued.” Again, this is music to the ear of all mana whenua, that the indigenous biodiversity is specifically recognised as a principle and that it actually forms part of the legislation. The point I am making is that although the Minister Nick Smith was, in his words, I believe, demeaning the actual importance of these principles, I believe the fact that these principles have been stated and have been included in this legislation elevates them. They have been elevated to being within the legislation—they are not just a mere document; they are actually in the body of the legislation, and they form a critical part in the process of the freshwater plans and regional policy statements. I did not want to underplay the importance of those principles, because they are a central part of the process.

Really, if we do look at Part 3, we are really getting to the guts of what this whole hybrid Environment Canterbury set-up is all about. Basically, it is all about the freshwater plans and regional policy statements and everything to do with water. That is why this particular part of the legislation is only to do with that particular aspect. If we go back to what the Minister said, there are eight water zones in the Environment Canterbury area. Only two have operative plans, so that means that this successor—this newly created hybrid body—has another 3 years to complete the process in Part 3 that they will have to follow to get those six plans in place. That is a monumental task, when you consider the difficulty—

JAMI-LEE ROSS (Junior Whip—National): I move, That the question be now put.

A party vote was called for on the question, That the question be now put.

Ayes 63 New Zealand National 59; Māori Party 2; ACT New Zealand 1; United Future 1.
Noes 58 New Zealand Labour 32; Green Party 14; New Zealand First 12.
Motion agreed to.
  • The question was put that the amendments set out on Supplementary Order Paper 157 in the name of the Hon Dr Nick Smith to clause 19 be agreed to.

A party vote was called for on the question, That the amendments be agreed to.

Ayes 63 New Zealand National 59; Māori Party 2; ACT New Zealand 1; United Future 1.
Noes 58 New Zealand Labour 32; Green Party 14; New Zealand First 12.
Amendments agreed to.

A party vote was called for on the question, That Part 3 as amended be agreed to.

Ayes 63 New Zealand National 59; Māori Party 2; ACT New Zealand 1; United Future 1.
Noes 58 New Zealand Labour 32; Green Party 14; New Zealand First 12.
Part 3 as amended agreed to.

Part 4 Miscellaneous provisions and amendments to 2010 Act

Dr MEGAN WOODS (Labour—Wigram): It is my pleasure to take a short call on Part 4. In particular, I want to talk to clause 29 of the legislation, which is “Matters relating to 2019 election”. In clause 29 it says “(1) To avoid doubt, nothing in this Act prevents Environment Canterbury from taking any step that must be taken under the Local Electoral Act 2001 for the purposes of the 2019 election. (2) However, Environment Canterbury must review its representation arrangements in accordance with section 19I of that Act, irrespective of whether it would be mandatory for it to do so under the requirements of that section in relation to the 2019 election.”

This comes to some of the core concerns that Labour has about this legislation. It is the “We’ve been here before” clause. Of course, we have, in the passage of this bill, traversed the history of it: that elected members of Environment Canterbury were first sacked in 2010 and the Government made comments at the time saying that it might be as late as 2013 before we could have elected representatives back on Environment Canterbury. Then, lo and behold, the 2013 triennial elections started to roll around, and there was more legislation extending it out for another 3 years. So this clause here, clause 29, does not give us any certainty that we are returning to full elected representation in 2019.

We heard the Hon Nick Smith earlier in the course of this Committee stage feigning some kind of outrage that the Hon Clayton Cosgrove had dared to question whether or not it had been the case—well, he has got form. We have been here before—we have seen elections delayed and pushed out, despite the reassurances that were given to the people of Canterbury—and throughout the course of this debate, there has been an inconsistency and, actually, a lack of coherence in the logic that the Government has used in relation to this legislation, and that is, of course, when its members bother to even try to defend taking away peoples’ democratic rights. It is quite stunning that you can sit through a whole Committee stage of a bill and not one Canterbury member of Parliament will get on their feet and defend the fact that the Government is taking away the right to vote in their region, and continuing that loss of democracy in their region.

What we have had is the Minister Nick Smith, throughout this, saying that it is OK because Labour did it. That seems to be the kind of catch-all that National tries to use for everything. He has used the example of district health boards, he has pulled in the example of Kaipara, and he is has pulled in the example of school boards that have been used in various places. But never ever have we had elections delayed for 9 years, which is the case and is what is entrenched in clause 29 of this legislation. It was in 2010 that that council was first sacked. It would seem a long time, if you had to wait a whole triennium, to have it come into play at the next scheduled triennial election in 2013. That seemed massive to the people of Canterbury.

Then there is the fact that that was pushed out by further legislation before that triennial election in 2013, and we are now having another push out of it, but not a return to full democracy, as Cantabrians were led to believe was going to be the case in 2010—a return to democracy by the time of the 2013 elections. And 6 years later we are debating here, in this Committee tonight, a clause of “Please Sir, can we please have it for the 2019 elections?”. This is just absurd.

I have no faith that this will actually take place. We have seen the Cabinet papers where the Ministry for Primary Industries is lobbying to have the current arrangement made permanent. This is not a temporary arrangement in the minds of many members of this Government. And if I am wrong, I welcome a Government member taking a call on this, putting our fears at ease, and assuring us that there will indeed be no push to have this established as a permanent arrangement, because we know there is an irrigation agenda in here. This is backed up by the fact that the Ministry for Primary Industries wants to see this as a permanent arrangement in Canterbury.

So what we have is that the people of Canterbury should have no faith that even this mixed model governance structure is going to expire in 2019. We have heard it all before. We know that there is lobbying going on in the background, and there is no certainty that there will be fully democratic elections held at the next elections in 2019. Thank you.

EUGENIE SAGE (Green): Tēnā koe, Mr Chair. Like Dr Woods, I would like to see a response from National members, and I think it is interesting that we have not heard any calls from National members other than the Minister in support of this bill, and the only calls there have been have been to move closure motions. The reason for that is why would members of the National Party—particularly those members in Canterbury—take a call when they are here because they have been elected? They are here because people voted for them democratically, so how could they defend a system that is in this bill where we have appointed, rather than elected, members around the council table? They know that they do not want to be accused of being hypocrites.

In this call, I would like to speak specifically to clause 27, “Environment Canterbury must report to responsible Ministers on management of fresh water”. They have got to report to the Minister of Local Government and the Minister for the Environment every 6 months in relation to progress on the Canterbury Land and Water Regional Plan, progress on other plans relating to the management of fresh water, and progress on the implementation of the Canterbury Water Management Strategy. If anyone was in any doubt that this bill was about controlling the management of water in Canterbury, this clause should remove that. Environment Canterbury has a wide range of functions for the management of natural resources—for the coast, for air, for natural hazards, for transport planning in the region, and for the management of pests—yet the only provision where the council is required to report to the Minister is in relation to water. So that shows that all the Minister’s arguments about needing continuity and about providing effective leadership somehow do not apply to all of the other responsibilities of the regional council—only to water. So, yes, this is about water.

It will be interesting to see what the Minister is interested in having reports from the council on. Will he—or she—be interested in how many more rivers and lakes are unswimmable? Will they be interested in the fact that the headwater streams of the Ōtākaro—or the Avon River—are drying up? Will they be interested in the fact that the species that depend on the braided rivers in Canterbury like the Rākaia and the Rangitata—all the wrybills and the black-fronted tern—are in deep trouble? Will they be interested in the snapshot of the state of the rivers that one submitter presented, just looking at incidents in October and November, that identified six rivers in South Canterbury where there were problems with toxic benthic cyanobacteria mats and where Environment Canterbury was warning that river users should avoid the areas because of those mats, from the Ōpihi to the Temuka River and to the Pareora—will the Ministers be interested in those reports? I do not think so. I think they will be more interested in the amount to which irrigation is proposed to be expanded in upcoming years, because of their emphasis on subsidising irrigation and using that to promote extensive dairying. And yet in Canterbury we have a major decline in water quality, which Environment Canterbury has comprehensively failed to report on.

Under an elected council, we had a very detailed and comprehensive state of the environment report released in 2009. Under the appointed commissioners, we have had only a snapshot of their progress in meeting the targets of the Canterbury Water Management Strategy. But that was enough to show that there is a continuing decline. In lowland spring-fed streams—on the plains, for example—in 2010, around 40 percent of those streams were in poor or very poor health in terms of the aquatic ecosystems, but in 2014 that had increased to 67 percent. We have got the Canterbury medical officer of health warning midwives in the Ashburton area to discourage new parents from bottle-feeding babies using bore water because of the risk of blue baby syndrome and nitrate levels interfering with the uptake of oxygen in the blood. The Minister in the chair, Jo Goodhew, is shaking her head, but those warnings have been issued by the medical officer of health and they were widely reported at the time.

At the same time that we have had water quality decreasing in Canterbury, we have also had an increase in non-compliance. Will the Ministers, under clause 27, be interested in Environment Canterbury’s role in enforcement? Recently, the Press reported that nearly one in five water users were guilty of significant non-compliance in relation to their water takes from streams, rivers, and aquifers. Either they were taking more than they were permitted to by their consent conditions or they were taking when restrictions applied. So 355 irrigators were significantly non-compliant, yet how many prosecutions did Environment Canterbury undertake? It issued only nine infringement and abatement notices. Water quality is declining, yet Environment Canterbury, under the commissioners, is failing to enforce the Resource Management Act requirements adequately.

In relation to things like transport, it is really disappointing that this provision does not require reporting on the other of Environment Canterbury’s responsibilities. It is one of the reasons why we believe that elected councillors would do a better job in areas like transport, because they would be much more responsive to their communities. We have seen a major decline in patronage of bus services under the commissioners. Some of that was due to the earthquakes, but they have failed to take action in an innovative way to encourage patronage. We have had media reports recently where we have had a further decline in patronage, and what are the commissioners proposing to do? Increase the fares, which is likely to lead to more decline in passenger numbers, and this is with a council that was once responsible for one of the most accessible and cost-effective bus systems in the whole of Australasia, before commissioners were appointed.

So we would like to see the Environment Canterbury commissioners having to report to the Ministers on their other functions and not just on fresh water, but the fact that this clause focuses on fresh water highlights once again that this bill is all about water and the promotion of irrigation. Thank you.

DENIS O’ROURKE (NZ First): This legislation will be repealed, under clause 6, after the 2019 election, and by then Environment Canterbury will have had to have decided, under clause 29 in this part of the bill, what wards it will have and how many councillors per ward it will have, and whatever other arrangements will be necessary for the election to then take place for the 3-year term following the 3 years under this bill. But when you look at clause 29(2) it says “Environment Canterbury must review”. That means that all members of Environment Canterbury must be carrying out that review, and that will include the six appointed members.

I think that it is most inappropriate for appointed members whose purpose is to be there—as we have heard repeatedly from the Minister—just to look after water issues to then be deciding what representation arrangements will be made for the next 3 years, under which all of the Environment Canterbury members will be elected. That is a most inappropriate provision, and it clearly shows that this Government has not properly thought out this legislation, because I cannot believe that it will have deliberately wanted it to happen.

If it did, then those members are out of their tiny minds, because it is not appropriate for people who are appointed to look after the water issues under this bill, and for 3 years following the 2016 elections, to be then taking part in the determination of what will happen for the fully elected term after that. It is just very, very bad law altogether. We have got a situation where not only are those appointed members going to be usurping the role of what should be fully elected members for the 3 years in question but in this bill they are going to usurp the role of an elected council to determine what the representation situation will be after that. I could not think of anything more inappropriate.

Another point about that is, we are told, the whole point of the appointment of people to Environment Canterbury is so that we would have the right skills there. I read out in an earlier speech the skills that were required, and they all relate to water issues and so on. But, actually, none of those skills are applicable to making a decision under clause 29(2) of this bill in relation to future representation arrangements for Environment Canterbury.

Clause 29(2) is a disgrace. It should not be in this bill. Members opposite should acknowledge that, delay this bill, and make sure that that clause is redrafted completely. That is really what is required. It is disgraceful, it is badly thought out, and, in fact, the entire bill is disgraceful and badly thought out.

A party vote was called for on the question, That Part 4 be agreed to.

Ayes 63 New Zealand National 59; Māori Party 2; ACT New Zealand 1; United Future 1.
Noes 58 New Zealand Labour 32; Green Party 14; New Zealand First 12.
Part 4 agreed to.

Schedule 1

A party vote was called for on the question, That schedule 1 be agreed to.

Ayes 63 New Zealand National 59; Māori Party 2; ACT New Zealand 1; United Future 1.
Noes 58 New Zealand Labour 32; Green Party 14; New Zealand First 12.
Schedule 1 agreed to.

Schedule 2

  • The question was put that the amendment set out on Supplementary Order Paper 157 in the name of the Hon Nick Smith to schedule 2 be agreed to.

A party vote was called for on the question, That the amendment be agreed to.

Ayes 63 New Zealand National 59; Māori Party 2; ACT New Zealand 1; United Future 1.
Noes 58 New Zealand Labour 32; Green Party 14; New Zealand First 12.
Amendment agreed to.

A party vote was called for on the question, That schedule 2 as amended be agreed to.

Ayes 63 New Zealand National 59; Māori Party 2; ACT New Zealand 1; United Future 1.
Noes 58 New Zealand Labour 32; Green Party 14; New Zealand First 12.
Schedule 2 as amended agreed to.

Schedule 3

A party vote was called for on the question, That schedule 3 be agreed to.

Ayes 63 New Zealand National 59; Māori Party 2; ACT New Zealand 1; United Future 1.
Noes 58 New Zealand Labour 32; Green Party 14; New Zealand First 12.
Schedule 3 agreed to.

Clauses 1 and 2

Dr MEGAN WOODS (Labour—Wigram): I would like to take a call and, in the time-honoured tradition, talk specifically to the title of this bill. The title that the Government has given this bill, the Environment Canterbury (Transitional Governance Arrangements) Bill, just seems a little bit absurd. We are now debating whether we should have bespoke governance arrangements in place for Canterbury for 9 years. The Government thinks this is a transitional arrangement. Where I come from, nearly a decade is not a transition. We call that semi-permanent, if not permanent. I think the “Continued Denial of Democracy Bill” would be a better title for this bill, rather than the Environment Canterbury (Transitional Governance Arrangements) Bill. I think “Nine Years is Not a Transition Bill” would be another alternative title that we could give—

Kris Faafoi: Nine long years.

Dr MEGAN WOODS: The “Nine Long Years Bill” could be another alternative title that we could give this bill. But, in all seriousness, I would not like to be flippant about this, because this is very serious. This is just an affront to people, that they have had their votes taken away from them for 9 years. The fact is that there is now a different model of democracy that operates in Canterbury.

I think, as people who are democratically elected, for us to be saying that things can be a little bit democratic is frightening. We are democratically elected members of this House and we should be the very people who stand up for democracy. We should not just say that it is OK for a Minister to appoint people to govern a region and make it different from other parts of the country. Not only does the Minister have the power to appoint; the Minister has the power to remove, and the Government has weakened the appeal rights contained in the bill. This is a truly frightening piece of government to be enacted by any Parliament.

We will continue our opposition to this arrangement after the passage of this bill. I have a member’s bill in my name that will be staying in the ballot. The title of that bill is the restoration of democracy in Canterbury bill and I have my fingers crossed, every time we have a ballot of members’ bills, that that bill gets drawn and we could return to fully democratic elections in Canterbury.

To call this a transitional governance arrangement bill is just not fair. I think another title that the Government could go back to is the “Canterbury Experimentation (Part 3) Bill”. That is what is being done to the people of Canterbury. When the Government cannot get across its own Resource Management Act reforms because it cannot get the support of its coalition partners, it thinks: “Oh, I know. Let’s see if we can try it out in Canterbury. They won’t mind.” So that is where we have it. We have a whole lot of bespoke provisions in here that make us different from the rest of the country. We have traversed many of these through the course of this Committee stage, and I would not like to traverse them again. But to say that this is some kind of transitional arrangement is just not something that any elected member should be able to stand up and say with any level of credibility.

Maybe that is why we are not hearing from the Government members from Canterbury. Maybe that is why they are content to sit there, voting away the full democratic rights of their fellow Cantabrians, and not utter a word. I imagine there are a number of people who elected those members to this House who are truly disappointed that their elected members are willing to sit silent as democracy is watered down by those members.

It is not good enough to call this a transitional arrangement. The Government has not made the case for why Canterbury should be treated any differently. The Government has dressed it up in a raft of different measures. It has tried to say that it is about our regeneration of Christchurch, yet we see that none of the things that would actually help our city regenerate are covered off in this bill.

This is a bill purely and simply about the Government needing to push across the line its irrigation agenda, and it is about water in Canterbury. The bill should be called the “Canterbury Water Bill” or, alternatively, it should be called the “We’ve Run Out of Ideas Bill”. This is a bill that belongs in the 20th century. It is not a piece of legislation that is fit for our future as a region. Stripping away people’s right to vote, imposing a bias towards a particular mode of land use—all these things are not what belong in the Canterbury of the 21st century. It is a disappointing piece of legislation. It is disappointing—

EUGENIE SAGE (Green): Tēnā koe, Mr Chair. Like others, I think this bill is a nonsense. It is an abominable piece of legislation and Parliament should be ashamed of passing it, because representative democracy is a fundamental principle that gives legitimacy to the Government and to the exercise of State power, and yet in this bill it is totally undermined. So a better title would be the “Suppression of Local Democracy Bill”, or the “Strong Arm of the State Bill” because this Government, through this bill, shows that it does not trust the citizens of Canterbury to elect a competent regional council.

Another title would be the “Ignore the Public Bill” because, remember, there were only 15 out of 1,169 submissions that supported this bill. There was strong public opposition. That opposition to the axing of elected councillors has been expressed in many ways in Canterbury. One of them is that cairn of stones—I and many others took stones from the beds of Canterbury rivers and added them to the cairn. The cairn stood there through all of the Canterbury earthquakes, while the statues of Godley and others fell over. The cairn remains a symbol of the loss of democracy in Canterbury, of the taking of water, and of the putting of irrigation and the expansion of irrigated land ahead of protecting the health of Canterbury’s rivers and aquifers.

This bill is an affront to democracy. We cannot claim to be a free and democratic society if we compromise with this second-class model where Ministers continue to appoint commissioners and where the bill truncates appeal rights and sidelines the specialist jurisdiction of the Environment Court in terms of making decisions on appeals on regional plans and the Canterbury Regional Policy Statement. It is an “Affront to Democracy Bill” because it imposes in Canterbury a different form of law to that which applies in other regions by truncating these appeal rights.

It is a model that is not accountable because nearly half of those sitting around the table will be reporting to the Minister rather than to Cantabrians. It is a Wellington-controlled model, plain and simple. So that is another title—the “Wellington-controlled Council Bill”. And it is certainly not a transitional governance arrangement, because we are about to mourn the sixth anniversary of the loss of an elected council, and by the time this legislation is repealed there will have been 9 long years without a fully elected council.

As the Christchurch City Council highlighted in its submission, it was very concerned that this hybrid model would reduce effective, open, and transparent processes, rather than provide the stability that the Government claims. We have seen a precedent being set here with the Government interfering with the processes and decision making of local councils through being able to appoint more commissioners. Nobody wants this as a precedent.

Local Government New Zealand expressed significant concern about the bill. It said—and I would like to conclude with a quote from its submission—that it highlighted that local government representatives should not be required to have specialist expertise or skills. Rather, their role is to “set the direction, resolve differences over values and set priorities and most of all supervise management.”

That is what local government and local democracy is all about. It is about people electing councillors who can make decisions on how the taxes that they contribute through rates are actually spent. It is about being accountable to local communities. This bill, by imposing Government appointees on Cantabrians, totally distrusts local government and highlights once again the Government’s failure to respect the ability of Cantabrians to elect competent people. It gives greater weight to voters in rural areas by giving them better representation.

I totally endorse the point that Denis O’Rourke was making in terms of having these appointed members actually setting the representation for the council post-2019—that likely provisions around the plans will continue the influence of the Government and the influence of appointed members well beyond 2019. That is a totally distasteful element of this bill, which is an abominable piece of legislation that the Green Party will continue to oppose.

CLARE CURRAN (Labour—Dunedin South): Before I speak on the title and commencement clauses, can I just acknowledge my colleagues Megan Woods, Eugenie Sage, and Denis O’Rourke for the heavy lifting they have done on this bill in the Committee tonight.

An alternative title for this bill should be the “Environment Canterbury Entrenchment of Anti-democracy Bill”. This is a frightening piece of legislation—an absolutely frightening piece of legislation. Nobody on that side of the Chamber—unless they are prepared to get up, take a call, and argue this—should actually have anything to say about it. Notice that they have all been completely quiet about it.

This is a frightening piece of legislation. It is a frightening piece of legislation on a number of levels, and I want to speak to some of them when addressing the title and commencement clauses.

My biggest concern—and I think Megan Woods actually alluded to this at one point during the debate tonight—is about this being a pilot project that could be used for other regional councils as to how the governance arrangement of regional councils could be. The Minister for the Environment has made it very clear tonight that the district health board model of governance that has been imposed on regional government through this Environment Canterbury bill is a viable model that could be used and implemented in other spheres in other parts of the country. I think that is the chilling effect of this legislation, and this bill is a warning, essentially, to any other regional council in New Zealand that dares to get out of line and to speak out of line that this model, which is this mixed-model governance of appointed and elected people, could be imposed upon it.

Under the district health board model, which was brought in in a completely different environment, it is funded by the distribution of taxation at the national level. Instead, here we have regional government. New Zealand does not have that many levels of government. We are not like Australia, where you have federal Government, you have states, and then you have regional and city councils. We have a very small number of tiers of government. We do not have two Houses in our Parliament; we have one House in our Parliament. Therefore, our levels of government are extremely important, and we should treat them with respect, but we are not. This Government is not treating the regional level of government with respect.

What the fear is with this bill is that this will be used as a model that could be imposed in other areas, and I think that is something that everybody should be really afraid of. It sends an unsubtle message to other councils that they may suffer the same fate if they oppose the Government. Transitional legislation was not needed—it was not needed. It is 9 years this will end up being for. This is not transition; this is actually entrenchment, which is why the alternative title that I have suggested is the “Entrenchment of Anti-democracy Bill”. This is not transition; it is entrenchment.

The public sentiment was very strong, and another point that was made during the debate tonight was around the skill sets of the appointed people. The point that my colleague David Parker made was that if the Government was so keen on those skill set, there could be encouragement for those people to be standing for elected positions. If it is the case that the only way that we can get the right skill sets into our levels of government is that you have to appoint them—

DENIS O’ROURKE (NZ First): I do not think that this title is at all accurate as a descriptor for this particular bill, and I have got three suggestions, any one of which would, I think, be better. The first one is “ECan’t be Democratic under this Government Bill”, because that is the reality. It is a hybrid, and it is not a democratic proposal for the governance of Canterbury at all. I mean, it is absolutely obvious that you cannot be half pregnant, and you cannot be half democratic. So what is the point in having this window dressing of having some elected people and some appointed ones? It is not going to be democratic as a result of that. I do not think that the current title is at all accurate, nor is it actually transitional—it does not describe anything transitional at all. All it describes is yet another model for the Government’s dominance of Environment Canterbury. It has got one currently. This is a new one, and there will not be any democracy until after 2019. So how can that be transitional? It is not. It is just weasel word, and it should not be there.

The second suggestion I have for a title is “Government’s Arrangements for Its Interest in Canterbury’s Environment Amendment Bill”, because that is really what the bill is about. When you consider why the Government is doing it, it is doing it to make sure that what it wants to achieve is what will happen in Canterbury for another 3 years. Again, that is not democratic, and, in particular, it is not a way in which the desires and aspirations of the people of Canterbury for the environment could possibly be met. This is because the Government is going to appoint members whose only interest is to serve the Government’s interests, and the elected people will have a hard job with the six appointed representatives in actually trying to achieve what the people of Canterbury want for their own region. For that reason, I also say that it is a very inappropriate title, and it should reflect the fact that this is just what the Government wants. So “Government’s Arrangements for Its Interests in Canterbury’s Environment Amendment Bill” would be much more accurate.

Lastly, my third suggestion is “A Failed Attempt at Environment Canterbury Governance Arrangements Act 2015”. I think the word “failed” would be appropriate. I say that because it is absolutely inevitable that this model will fail; it does not matter how you judge it. Will it represent the aspirations and desires of the people of Canterbury for their environment? No, because the Government will see to it that it cannot, through its appointed representatives. It does not matter that it is six against seven—it is close enough for that to be the effect. Will it actually mean that the Canterbury Water Management Strategy will be any better under this bill? No, it will not, because it is already going to be entrenched in the bill, which does not need any appointed members to do that. It is good that it will be entrenching the Canterbury Water Management Strategy, because that will underpin everything that the new councils do in the future. Whatever rules and whatever regulations the councils make must be consistent with that strategy. That was well and properly done, but the appointed members’ role in achieving that is well and truly over, and it is time for elected people to say what should happen in the future in terms of that strategy in Canterbury.

No mixed system of both elected and appointed people can ever work effectively because there will be that them-and-us approach that will take root, and it will never stop. It is going to mean a dysfunctional council, I believe, and not one that the people of Canterbury will have any hope that it will actually improve their environment. So any one of those three titles, I would be happy with, but certainly not the one that we have got here.

JAMI-LEE ROSS (Junior Whip—National): I move, That the question be now put.

RINO TIRIKATENE (Labour—Te Tai Tonga): Kia ora, Mr Chair. I am very pleased to speak on the title and commencement clauses. This will be my final contribution in the Committee stage, I would imagine.

I do want to return to the very first point that I made earlier today, and that was the significance of the mound of stones that is there in Cathedral Square. That cairn was erected as a memorial by the people of Canterbury to mark their sense of loss at the fact that their democratic rights were stripped from them when the Environment Canterbury councillors were all sacked back in 2010. That cairn—that pile of stones—marks the loss of democracy, and it is actually more relevant now than it was back in 2010, because here we are 6 years down the track and that mound of stones is still there. So as a suggested new title I would propose that we rename this bill the “Environment Canterbury (The Cairn Still Stands) Bill”, because that cairn represents the loss of democracy, and it will not be removed—it will not be removed—until full democracy is restored to the people of Canterbury.

I know that this bill creates a sort of hybrid of councillors—half are elected and half are appointees from the Minister—but, again, that is not good enough. That will not open the way for the removal of that cairn, because half is not whole. The people of Canterbury erected that structure as a landmark for everyone to see, and to remember that their rights were taken away. So half is not good enough. I am sure that in those stones, which were collected from all of the rivers around the Canterbury region, there might be some good hāngi stones—I am sure that there are—but perhaps when democracy is restored those stones could be used for another purpose, to celebrate the restoration of the democracy for the people of Canterbury.

Another point that I did make was the appointment by Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu of two appointees, or the recommendation to the Minister of two appointees, who will go through on to this new transitional body—I actually do support that. I think it sets a very exciting precedent that mana whenua representation can go direct to the actual council level, and be equal, on a par with, and level with councillors at the regional council table. I think that is an exciting development.

I am going to be interested to know what will happen after 3 years, and whether Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu will still have those rights and will still have a level of representation at that level for mana whenua, so the words “mana whenua” could be another addition to the title. The bill could be the “Environment Canterbury (Transitional Governance Arrangements with Mana Whenua Representation) Bill”, with those words included in the title as well, because, as I have mentioned, that is a significant development.

I know that iwi up and down the country will be looking at and studying this piece of legislation very closely, because I know that they all have very, very deep concerns about their natural environment. If it is good enough for Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu to lead the way, well, certainly I know that iwi up and down the country will want to follow suit as well, and they will be expecting more from the Minister—they will be expecting the Minister to deliver accordingly.

The Minister mentioned that we are continuing on in this transitional phase with denying the people of Canterbury their full democratic rights because, effectively, we need six more water zones to be put in place—the actual planning processes and the planned zones, or whatever the vernacular is for the resource management speakers. That needs to be put in place, and so I would encourage, as a final title—

JAMI-LEE ROSS (Junior Whip—National): I move, That the question be now put.

A party vote was called for on the question, That the question be now put.

Ayes 63 New Zealand National 59; Māori Party 2; ACT New Zealand 1; United Future 1.
Noes 58 New Zealand Labour 32; Green Party 14; New Zealand First 12.
Motion agreed to.

A party vote was called for on the question, That clause 1 stand part.

Ayes 63 New Zealand National 59; Māori Party 2; ACT New Zealand 1; United Future 1.
Noes 58 New Zealand Labour 32; Green Party 14; New Zealand First 12.
Clause 1 agreed to.

A party vote was called for on the question, That clause 2 stand part.

Ayes 63 New Zealand National 59; Māori Party 2; ACT New Zealand 1; United Future 1.
Noes 58 New Zealand Labour 32; Green Party 14; New Zealand First 12.
Clause 2 agreed to.
  • Bill to be reported with amendment presently.