If you are not familiar with the detail The Press and Claire Browning at Pundit have some useful background. Kiwiblog and Idiot Savant have been crossing swords over the anti democratic aspects of it. It is anti democratic and to be deplored but very far from being Fiji. Central government is acting in accordance with precedent and law.
It does not take much nous to figure out that Hide has obviously made a comparison between the super city planned for Auckland and the multiplicity of councils around Canterbury. Hide thinks big is beautiful which is why he is pushing the super Auckland city. He is from Canterbury and will be thinking to do the same thing as he is doing in Auckland. So the turkey mayors who have been bitching about ECan's performance celebrating now can expect to have a reasonably short lifespan themselves. Look for a Canterbury super city proposal in the next 6 months to be bedded in before the next general election due in around 18 months time. Talk about turkeys voting for Christmas. gobble gobble gobble now lads.
Nick Smith apparently said "there would be no extra cost to ratepayers of appointing commissioners". Meaning only that central government will foot the commissioners bill thereby sharing it with the rest of New Zealand. That will cost ratepayers in their other guise as taxpayers money. Councillors have contracts. They are contracted by the voters. Ratepayers will be paying the full value of the contract but not getting a return. Ratepayers are also voters. Value for money here is not a big deal in the scheme of things.
From everything I have read farmers were not happy and greenies were not happy which probably means that ECan was cutting a reasonable central path. Nick Smith's Department for the Environment has not issued any national water management standards that ECan could have used as a framework for their regional plan and water is vastly more important to Canterbury than other regions at present due to the combination of dairy conversions and an already low base. It seems there were some bureaucratic stupidities in the nineties that gave away water for long time frames with few controls. When the ratepayer owns a scarce resource why would their appointees be stupid enough not to get maximum value then or now. It would be very easy but monumentally stupid for the commissioners to simply sign away the rights to water to whomever wanted them. Auction of tightly controlled extract & effluent rights with some options to renew would seem far more sensible to me. The highest bidder values them most.
So in 18 months time the people of Canterbury will be looking for some magical progress on cleaner and more water in irrigation. Lake Ellesmere is a toxic algal cesspit. Does anybody really imagine that water quality is going to be demonstrably better in 18 months time?
The Canterbury Water Management Strategy was issued by the mayoral forum and was due for agreement with ECan over the next six months. So commissioners will not get any credit for coming up with a credible resource plan from scratch. They will simply look to expedite that plan and as many irrigation schemes as they can find. Do not expect commissioners to bother trying to bring half arsed resource management applications up to scratch. Do not expect anything that seriously balances the desires of dairy farmers for increased water with the desires of VOTERS for clean pristine water.
I don't doubt the competence of Margaret Bazley, but she is not a miracle worker.
The problem that Hide and Smith have is that they have taken on complete responsibility for the total solution in a relatively short time by sacking the council. There is no plausible way they can satisfy both farmers and urban voters. If they had adopted the ECan proposal and put commissioners alongside the existing council they would always have had a scapegoat. That possibility is gone. There must be a permanent resolution in the next 12 months of both water and governance so that there is time to sell the success into the next general election. Otherwise National will face an extremely disgruntled Canterbury electorate, having lost their local democracy and yet not had a better water solution than ECan and the CWMS would have brought.
Which means Hide must genuinely believe he can bring a super council to the region to replace all the existing councils. And Smith believes the commissioners will work with the mayoral forum at the same time to achieve sufficient irrigation schemes approved along with public consultation to keep farmers happy whilst improving water quality. At the same time as the mining development conversation is going on. And they are hoping that all of this change will please the voters. Big balls!
There is a reason why a water strategy takes so long to develop. There are many competing priorities. Voters will not see much in the way of material benefit from irrigation and mining proposals for themselves but the Greens and Labour will certainly help them to identify the degradation of water quality for leisure and tourism.
Canterbury, Hide, Smith and Bazley look set for interesting times.
Disclosure: I am related to a sacked Ecan councillor. These are my own opinions and speculation.