Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Hide & Smith make a monumental gamble

It seems to me that certainly Nick Smith and possibly Hide have made a monumental gamble that may be a cockup over the decision to sack ECan. Surpassed only by the turkeys at the various councils voting for Christmas by eagerly pushing for ECan to be sacked.

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.


gravedodger said...

My contacts around the albatross that is Ecant hold Eugenie in reasonably high regard but this is a culmination of 18 years of non action and bumbling ineptitude.
FFS they havn't been able in that time to develop a water plan but they have managed to lose a Sh#t load of rate payers money on trying to find a dragon to slay when conventional thinking seems to agree there hasn't been a real dragon sighted in the principality in living memory. Some believe a lynx is however, on the loose somewhere near Mayfield, that is another story best left to the MSM on a quiet day.
All jokes aside why, if the proposed Pegasus Town was such a threat didn't Ecant just ensure the development complied with water, drainage and other infrastructure and if the great Satan didn't support it let it go tits up instead of following the ridiculous path of trying to stop it with some obscure philosophical planning theory on the part of some of the more extreme paid staff and then pour another truckload of money down the great appeal hole. The legals are still ROLFLTAO.
Your take on a possible move by the Hon Rodney Hide has some merit as the Waitaki catchment and Sth Canterbury area are very disolusioned with the non performance of Ecant so a discussion on one or two unitary authorities is timely.
The second tier of local governance in the region has been unfocussed. inefficient and a very expensive failure so Welcome Dame Margaret as your past history gives me confidence that if anyone can see a way forward then you can.

Anonymous said...

From everything I have read farmers were not happy and greenies were not happy

Fuck the greenies. The farmers are productive and create wealth. The comissioner will listen to farmers, not the city-mayors and certainly not greenie scum.

in other words: a win all around. Other councils of whatever size who get in the way of enterprise should be dumped too - without all the expensive fanfare that preceeded this long-overdue decision.

Hell - frankly they should put Brash (or better still, Ruth) in as a comissioner to run central government for the next couple of elections: that way we might actually get some traction on what needs to be done to fix NZ!

sagenz said...

anon - Presumably you would be happy to live in a cesspit in Beijing or for your suburban neighbour to start up a waste dump.

Quality of life is a constant balance between increased material wealth against a lower quality of life.

You dont work 18 hours a day for the simple reason that you balance leisure and quality against increased wealth

sagenz said...

grave - I would accept that there seemed so much dysfunction that it may have been simpler to start over. The rot certainly does not seem limited to ECan

Anonymous said...

I'm blowed if I know, but there is 700 years of case history with regard to such matters as these.

It's called Common Law.

It's extremely unpopular with the type of dickhead politician who likes to manage by fiat and further his own influence.

The Resource Management Act is a signal display of the typical, bungling, interfering type who figures that the world began with his generation. All else before was wrong and irrelevant; None possess the wisdom of the post modern dickhead.

The result is a very expensive mess with no end to it.


Psycho Milt said...

The NBR headline says it all: Victory for irrigators over Environment Canterbury. As far as National's concerned, the people's elected representatives were doing too good a job of protecting Canterbury's environment so they had to go. Farrar can quack on about precedent under Labour all he likes, the fact remains the only reason for this imposition of taxation without representation is that National's business supporters weren't getting decisions that let them profit from turning Canterbury's rivers into shit. That shit will be an appropriate legacy for Hide and Smith.

Anonymous said...

You dont work 18 hours a day

actually I do work 18 hours a day.

Don't you?

If not - are you independently wealthy or a bludger?

taxation without representation

NZ's problem is not "taxation without representation". NZ's problem is the opposite: "representation without taxation"

Removing ECant has greatly improved this, removing representation from vast swathes of
unproductive bludgers...

Psycho Milt said...

actually I do work 18 hours a day.

I'm afraid posting bizarre, mouth-frothing diatribes on people's blogs doesn't come under the heading of "work."

sagenz said...

milt - I dont know why I bother. You have far more patience than I do. Not sure it is ever worth taking anon retards seriously.

That was a most interesting NBR article thank you. I not you have picked up on Kiwipolitico as on ongoing read

Psycho Milt said...

Yes, Kiwipolitico's a good read. I do comment occasionally but am mostly a lurker - the authors are a lot smarter than me...