Labour has ECan bill in ballot

Labour MP Megan Woods (file)
Labour MP Megan Woods (file)

The Labour Party has put a private member's Bill in Parliament's ballot in an attempt to speed up the return of democracy to Environment Canterbury (ECan).

Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith yesterday announced the regional council would hold limited elections in 2016, with seven elected councillors to serve alongside six Government-appointed commissioners.

The plan is to return to full elections by 2019, following the Government's sacking of the council in 2010 over its failure to implement a freshwater management programme.

But Labour's environment spokesperson Megan Woods says the mixed-model approach is in "no way, shape or form" a return to democracy.

She's put a Bill in the ballot which would throw out the commissioners and see ECan return to fully democratic elections in October 2016.

"Calling it a transition to democracy is misleading. This is just denying Cantabrians their rights for four more years," Ms Woods says.

"Cantabrians have already waited 1927 days to get their vote back and it will be about another 1545 days under the plan announced today – that's wrong."

The MP claims documents released to Labour under the Official Information Act (OIA) show Government officials were concerned the lack of democracy may set a "dangerous precedent" for future changes.

"It is an insult to Cantabrians. Once again the Government has decided that people in Canterbury cannot be trusted to make their own decisions about their future."

Ballots are drawn infrequently and at random, with the selected Bills going before the House for a debate. There is no guarantee they will be passed into law, but a successful draw will force MPs to debate the subject.

Dr Smith's decision will also go before Local Government and Environment Select Committee later this year, opening another opportunity for oral and written submissions.

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