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Environment Canterbury Rorts the Rules

The opinion piece in The Press September 7, 2019, is on the money – if Environment Canterbury (Ecan) continues to avoid its role under the Resource Management Act (RMA) in protecting the region’s freshwater resources for the sake of powerful farming interests, then the much overdue review of the standards contained in the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management (NPS FM) and National Environmental Standards (NES) will be for nothing.

The coalition government is to be applauded for putting aside “short termism” that typically shapes government policy. The scale and pace of pollution to New Zealand’s freshwater resources has finally been recognized. It has now grown to become a generational problem that will take years to address.

Ecan has yet to get the message.

The RMA, the vision and principles of the Canterbury Water Management Strategy (CWMS) and Ecan’s own policy all state that the environment is a first order priority, that irrigation is a second order priority. Despite the intent of this legislation, Ecan develops the rules:

· Rules determined by 10 Water Zones Committees composed of (farmer) water users

· Rules that are too lenient to address the over abstraction and nitrate pollution of the region’s freshwater resources

· Rules based on the principles of “self-auditing”.

· Rules based on Good Management Practice (GMP) developed by various farming sectors for the convenience of the farming sectors rather than for achieving environmentally sustainable outcomes

· Rules developed in closed meetings with participants bound by confidentiality agreements

· Rules based on unproven models such as OVERSEER

· Rules where the necessary outcome will occur years out into the future, allowing short term exploitation (and pollution) to continue unabated.

· Rules where members of the public are given impossibly short time limits to participate.

· Rules that are not enforced – despite its relative size and resources Ecan has achieved the lowest number of prosecutions of any regional or territorial council.

Rules without enforcement are meaningless

For the future of Canterbury it is essential that ratepayers vote in the forthcoming local body elections. Candidates must be chosen who are independent of the status quo.

Peter Trolove

President of the NZFFA