Prime Minister John Key has sent out a leaflet to 120,000 Canterbury households seeking to justify firing the democratically elected councillors who ran the Environment Canterbury Regional Council (ECan). Who can say what this tick the boxes survey of this taxpayer-funded propaganda blaming Environment Canterbury for “being the country’s worst council for processing resource consents and not having a water plan”, signifies. We see John Key’s smiling face with the headline “Protecting Canterbury’s most important resource WATER”.
This blog focusing on to saving the iconic Mackenzie Country landscapes will expose the contradictions of the Key position. On the 20th August 2010 Forest and Bird called upon the Government to halt the pastoral tenure review in the Mackenzie and end ecologically destructive biodiversity land use changes. (google – Battle to protect landscape persists By DAVID WILLIAMS – The Press)
What was really happening was that Environment Canterbury was under siege from the forces that are reshaping the plains into one vast dairy farm sucking our rivers dry in the process and poisoning our acquifers with campylobacter as has happened in Dunsandel a small rural township 20 miles from Christchurch. This is what more than anything has set off the fears of Christchurch people about their water supply. Our aquifers are replenished in a way we to this day we don’t fully understand by the Waimakariri River, which has had almost half its flow allocated to Central Plains Water . The threat of compulsory land acquisition to build water canals is dividing our community. This is not just about coming to a gentlemanly agreement about how to divide up water in a way that suits stakeholders as is proposed in the Key’s water strategy. The Australian experience with the Murray River show there are real environmental problems long term with this kind of water regulation.
Key says “Water storage and irrigation projects that meet environmental standards and make good economic sense, should happen within a decent time frame” Sounds so plausible doesn’t it but not if it is the land that you love that is going to be diverted, dammed, flooded ,drowned, canalled for water storage. Key sounds so reasonable but these are rivers we love he is talking about “water managing’ . Read “Balanced plan” for Hurunui as doublespeak for “irrigation order’ not “protection order’. National wants to fast track its way through the ever increasing public opposition.
The poll comes five months after Environment Minister Nick Smith and Local Government Minister Rodney Hide dumped the regional councillors and now John Key cannot show his face in Christchurch without being heckled and booed which is no doubt the reason National is having its 16 to 17 October Bluegreens Forum at Akaroa.
The four-page leftlet says: “There are major problems with water management in Canterbury”. It justifies intervention by saying “the Government wasn’t confident that a highly politicised and divided council would be able to sort out these problems”.
Professor Philip Joseph, School of Law, University of Canterbury said the Environment Canterbury (Temporary Commissioners and Improved Water Management) Act, which was passed under urgency breaches several principles of law, is “constitutionally repugnant”, contains “elements of subterfuge” and is a “constitutional affront” since we have lost our right of recourse to the Environment Court. There was a degree of stealth in the urgency to enact this legislation from go to woe passing three stages in 48 hours.We will have these temporary Commissioners longer than the 3 year life of Parliament. What I’m concerned about is the idea of proper process, and this was a departure,” he said.“This didn’t go through any select committee consideration, no submissions and no consultation. Why should urgency be taken on a matter such as this?” The act does away with democratic decision making.
The form asks whether people agree with the Government’s actions, invites them to rank four water priorities including the loaded “water storage” option and asks when new Environment Canterbury elections should be held. Considering the horse had already bolted from the stable this consultation can be seen as window dressing justifying and validating their lack of transparent democratic process.
The leaftlet has provoked strong reactions.
Christchurch Central MP Brendon Burns called the taxpayer-funded pamphlet and voting form “a bloody outrage”.He said the pamphlet proved the Government underestimated Cantabrians’ anger about the actions.
“Prime Minister John Key should have asked the people of Christchurch what they thought before he fired the elected Councillors of ECan under parliamentary urgency, rather than asking them now, five months later,” Jim Anderton said today.
“The government’s ECan pamphlet looks suspiciously like the first move in an elaborate scam. Since the forms are to be returned to National MPs, there will be no independent verification or scrutiny of the returns, so the entire process will be controlled by the National party, enabling the result to be cooked so as to produce the “answer” Key wants.
This hoax will have at least two purposes, the first being to “show” that the Key regime’s fascist assault on Canterbury democracy is supported by a “silent majority”, and that the protests against it are “merely” the agitation of a minority of perverse malcontents. Peter Tuffley Our Water Our Vote Facebook page
Former ECan chairman Sir Kerry Burke said the letter was “self-serving” six weeks out from the local body elections. “It is a party political broadcast actually.”
Former councillor Jane Demeter said “it was a sham. It’s very interesting to see what John Key has chosen to print in there. It is a puff piece … will they actually act on any of the responses?”
The real culprit with the mangement of Canterbury Water was the Government’s failure to provide leadership in an environment in which the first come first served allocations of the Resource Management Act was not safeguarding our environment. Behind the scenes farmers and dairying interests have been lobbying the Government to get their hands on water for irrigation faster. National’s clarion call is “faster with the economic development”. When you unpack the Key message this is the real contradiction at the heart of the Canterbury’s water woes. The allocation of water consents and proposed storage and infrastructure is destroying our drinking water quality and the water quality in lakes and rivers for recreation. The problem no matter how you dress it up large water storage equals environmental damage , loss for ecological diversity and happiness for birds,fish and our outdoor pursuits. These are not kind of projects that should be fast tracked.
What will John Key do when the survey respondents overwhelmingly oppose the sackings and call for immediate regional elections. Dear John please actually protect Canterbury’s most important resource WATER”.