31 March 2010

The Environment Canterbury Temporary Commissioners and Improved Water Management Bill

I am quite concerned about some aspects of the Environment Canterbury Temporary Commissioners and Improved Water Management Bill. (Oh no another awful acronym, the "ECTCIWMB"!)

Under Part 3 of the bill, Dame Margaret Bazley and the Environment Canterbury commissioners will become the decision maker for the Hurunui Water Conservation Order application when that process is perhaps 80% complete (Tribunal compromise decision with Minister) .

Water Conservation Orders were the only part of RMA deliberately not subject to Part 2 (sustainable management) of the RMA, as the statutory purpose inherited from the previous legislation is preservation in the natural state of nationally significant rivers. Dame Margaret's decision on the Hurunui River WCO must consider 'sustainable management' and the principles of the Canterbury Strategic Water Management Strategy.

And there is of course the Hurunui Water Project suite of storage and irrigation consents notified at Ecan, which cannot co-exist with the Hurunui River WCO if approved in it's current form.

This part is a major change to the water and rivers framework of the RMA that is nothing to do with Ecan's jurisdiction or performance. It is being rammed through Parliament without due process. It's an affront to due process for Fish and Game (as the Hurunui WCO applicant) to have the legal process (and goalposts) changed at the nearly the end of the process.

It's also an affront to the transitional practice that has applied to all previous (overly numerous) amendments to the RMA: that the process for all applications and plans are 'grandfathered' with the version of the RMA that existed on they day they were lodged.

Here's a quote, not from the Greens, but from Canterbury NBR correspondent Chris Hutchings

"The move represents a victory for Irrigation NZ and rural interests seeking control of the region’s waterways for irrigation projects involving the Hurunui, Rakaia, Waimakariri and other main rivers."

In respect of that part of the bill, it's hard to disagree.

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