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Digest No. 2269

Environment Canterbury (Transitional Governance Arrangements) Bill 2015

Date of Introduction: 26 August 2015
Portfolio: Environment
Select Committee: As at 30 September, 1st Reading not held.
Published: 30 September 2015by John McSoriley BA LL.B, BarristerLegislative AnalystP: (04) 817-9626 (Ext. 9626) Caution: This Digest was prepared to assist consideration of the Bill by members of Parliament. It has no official status.Although every effort has been made to ensure accuracy, it should not be taken as a complete or authoritative guide to the Bill. Other sources should be consulted to determine the subsequent official status of the Bill.


The aim of the Bill is to:

  • provide governance arrangements for the Canterbury Regional Council to operate during “the 2016 to 2019 local authority election-cycle period;”

  • replace the governance arrangements that have been in place since 2010 under the Environment Canterbury (Temporary Commissioners and Improved Water Management) Act 2010;

  • provide for a majority of members of the Council to be elected by the people of the Canterbury region; and

  • provide for the continuation of some of the modified resource management processes that have operated under the Environment Canterbury (Temporary Commissioners and Improved Water Management) Act 2010 to remain available to the Council in order to further progress issues relating to the management of fresh water within the Canterbury region (Clause 3(1) of the Bill).


The Environment Canterbury (Temporary Commissioners and Improved Water Management) Act 2010 replaced the elected governing body of Environment Canterbury (also known as “ECan” or the Canterbury Regional Council) of 14 regional councillors with seven Government appointed Commissioners. This Act was passed in response to the 2010 report of the Review Group, headed by the Rt Hon Wyatt Creech and established by the then Minister for the Environment and Minister of Local Government, which concluded that:

“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. A very large backlog of outstanding issues needs to be addressed before water management in the Region reaches a steady state position. While the improvements and efforts made to address longstanding performance issues are acknowledged, the Review Group has concluded that ECan’s performance on water policy and management issues (allocation and quality) falls well short of what is essential.” [1]  

The Environment Canterbury (Temporary Commissioners and Improved Water Management) Amendment Act 2013 extended this governance arrangement until 2016.

On 8 July 2015 the Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith and Associate Local Government Minister Louise Upston announced that Environment Canterbury would move to a mixed governance council of seven elected councillors and up to six councillors appointed in 2016 as a transition to a fully elected council in 2019 to “maintain the momentum in completing Canterbury’s water plan” and working “on the earthquake recovery.”

At the local body elections in October 2016, four members would be elected at large in Christchurch, one elected from North Canterbury for the districts of Kaikōura, Hurunui and Waimakariri, one elected from mid-Canterbury for the Selwyn and Ashburton districts, and one from South Canterbury representing the Timaru, Mackenzie, Waimate districts and the parts of Waitaki north of the Waitaki River. The elected and appointed councillors would later elect the chair and deputy chair. The mixed council would “carry out a representation review in 2018 under the standard Local Government Act provisions to determine the make-up and wards of the fully elected council for 2019.” [2]  

The Bill provides that in order to meet its aim the Bill:

  • replaces the Environment Canterbury (Temporary Commissioners and Improved Water Management) Act 2010;

  • provides for a new governing body for the Canterbury Regional Council comprising a mix of elected and appointed members;

  • authorises the new governing body to continue to exercise certain of the powers and perform certain of the functions conferred on the commissioners appointed under the Environment Canterbury (Temporary Commissioners and Improved Water Management) Act 2010; and

  • sets out rules to manage the interface of this Act with other legislation applicable to local authorities, including (but not limited to) the Local Government Act 2002, the Local Electoral Act 2001, and the Resource Management Act 1991 (Clause 3(2) of the Bill).

Main Provisions

Repeal on “resumption day”

The Bill provides that it is repealed on the resumption day which is the day after the day on which the official result of the 2019 election is declared under Section 86 of the Local Electoral Act 2001 in relation to Environment Canterbury. However Part 3 (see below) of the Bill will continue in force after resumption day if the applications and decisions to which the Part relates have not been completely disposed of (including any appeals in relation to those matters) before the resumption day (Part 1, Clause 6; Clause 4(1) definition of “resumption day”).

Relationship with others Acts

The Bill provides that the Local Government Act 2002, the Local Electoral Act 2001, the Resource Management Act 1991, and any other legislation applicable to a local authority apply to Environment Canterbury except to the extent that those Acts are inconsistent with, or modified by, this Bill (Part 1, Clause 7).

Transitional governing body

The Bill provides that during the “transition period” (i.e. that is the period starting on the “transition day” (the day after the day on which the official result of the 2016 election is declared under Section 86 of the Local Electoral Act 2001 in relation to Environment Canterbury) and ending on the close of the resumption day) the governing body of Environment Canterbury comprises 7 elected members (one each for the North Canterbury, mid-Canterbury and South Canterbury constituencies and 4 elected at large for Christchurch - in the same manner as other regional council members are elected under the Local Electoral Act 2001) and no fewer than 3 and no more than 6 members appointed by the Minister (appointed members). The chairperson and deputy chairperson must be elected by the members. In the Bill this governing body is referred to as the “transitional governing body”. The Bill provides for the process of appointing members, for when they come into and leave office, and also for their remuneration (which is to be set under a determination of the Remuneration Authority). The Bill provides that responsible Ministers may, in their complete discretion, remove an appointed member of the council at any time (Part 2, Clauses 8 and 9; Part 1 Clause 4(1), definitions of “transition day”, “transition period” and “resumption day”; Clauses 10-18 (election and appointment of members and other matters relating to them).

RMA arrangements

Part 3 relates, generally, to water conservation orders and the approval of proposed plans and regional policy statements and, in particular, to rights of appeal in relation to those matters (Part 3, Clauses 19-26; Schedule 3 (“Vision and principles of Canterbury Water Management Strategy—Strategic Framework, November 2009”).

Copyright: © NZ Parliamentary Library, 2015
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  1. Wyatt Creech (chair), “Investigation of the Performance of Environment Canterbury under the Resource Management Act & Local Government Act”, February 2010   [back]
  2. Media Release, Hon Dr Nick Smith and Hon Louise Upston, “Environment Canterbury transition plan announced”, 8 July 2015.   [back]