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5. Summary of Recommendations

Water Recommendation 1: Establish, under its own Act of Parliament, a new entity for managing water in Canterbury, the Canterbury Regional Water Authority, together with appropriate transitional arrangements.

The new Act should:

  • Recognise the national significance of water in the Region.
  • Identify the purpose, role and functions of the CRWA, which should include a mix of economic development, environmental, social and cultural factors.
  • Identify the structure and makeup (skills, experience etc) of an appointed Board to govern the CRWA.
    • Require the creation of a strategic plan for water, and define the timing for creation of the plan.  The plan should:
    • Balance economic, environmental, social and cultural needs for water in Canterbury
    • Allow for prioritisation of specific uses in different areas (irrigation, electricity generation etc), water trading, conservation etc.
  • Transfer the statutory water-related functions of ECan (consenting, monitoring, enforcement, scientific investigations etc) to the new entity.
  • Recognise that there will be land – water integration issues that will require cross-agency (ECan – CRWA and CRWA - TA) interaction.
  • Require RMA / LGA documents to give effect to the Plan (e.g. other (non-water related) regional plans, the Regional Policy Statement, district plans, LTCCP’s)
  • Include a transition period until the new plan is in place
  • Include an on-going ongoing role in monitoring the implementation of the CRWA’s activities, including evaluating the effectiveness of implementation of its strategic plan. 
  • Be funded from the sources that currently funds ECan (including the rating base and user charges). The Government should consider whether there is any need for central funding for any part of the process during the transition period. 

We also recommend a separate statute be passed as a matter of urgency to replace the ECan Council with a Commission to oversee the change and progress planning for the management of water, pending the establishment of the CRWA. 

Water Recommendation 2: Replace ECan with a Commission to manage the organisational change. 

We recommend the establishment of a Commission to replace the ECan Council to manage the organisational change.

The primary function of the Commission would be to oversee the separation of functions and funding associated with the management of freshwater from ECan to the CRWA.  This will require a Commission with considerable change management expertise.  Pending the establishment of CRWA, the Commission would also be charged with progressing planning associated with the management of freshwater.

Water Recommendation 3: Transitional arrangements to provide an operative framework in the short term. 

We recommend that the Government provide a transitional framework to manage ECan in the short term.

The most time-efficient transitional arrangement would be for the Minister for the Environment to require ECan under section 25A of the RMA, to produce a plan within a defined period.  This would require selection of specific sections pertaining to water allocation and quality that are the highest priority and the development of an urgent work programme to get those sections of the NRRP through the RMA First Schedule process as quickly as possible.

RMA Recommendation 1: Fit for Purpose Review of Planning and Consenting Directorate

We recommend a ‘fit for purpose’ review of the Planning and Consenting Directorate to be undertaken as a matter of urgency.  This review should be undertaken by an independent external party familiar with best practice, not from within ECan.  The review should consider the following:

  • The structure of the current Directorate (including consents) and its appropriateness given the issues we have identified.  Particular focus should be given to the third and fourth tier of management within the Planning Group.
  • Resource Management Act content leadership should be introduced in the consenting section.  This should be either the appointment or secondment of senior planning/resource management specialists into the consenting section, at a management level.
  • ECan should consider setting aside a portion of all staff time as non-chargeable (we suggest 20-25% contingency) to allow staff time to provide more input into policy and planning work and to work together on cross-boundary issues.  This would greatly assist cross-organisational integration, and allow adequate time/resources to deal with emerging issues.
  • A broader range of skills is required in the Consenting Section – notably planning skills.  Officers with the appropriate planning/resource management skills need to be in positions to influence the form and content of the application assessment, the section 42A reports, and the hearings process.
  • ECan needs more planners, resource management specialists, economists and social scientists on staff to better provide for a broader range of perspective and allow balance between environmental, economic, social and cultural perspectives.  This should be considered as part of the ‘fit for purpose’ review we have recommended for the Planning and Consenting Directorate.
    Increasing project management capability within the Directorate.
  • Appropriate experience required of staff (including understanding of the consenting, and monitoring and enforcement functions of Council).
  • Addressing the policy and planning confusion that ECan currently presents (taking into account the recommended creation of a Canterbury Regional Water Authority).
  • How to better integrate planning and consenting functions within ECan (this would also apply to the CRWA).
  • Whether to bring the Regional Policy Statement into the RMA Planning and Consenting Directorate to ensure alignment of all RMA related policy and planning documents.

RMA Recommendation 2: External Hearing Commissioners

The Review Group believes ECan needs to more actively and effectively manage the Commissioners hearing process in terms of accountability, responsibility and timeframe management.  We recommend ECan review its External Commissioner pool as a matter of urgency and determine if it has sufficient numbers of Commissioners and the right skill set – i.e. planning/resource management, legal and technical.  It should also determine if it should ‘go back to the market’ and seek expressions of interest for external Commissioners to determine who is available. 

It would also be an opportune time to consider contracting Commissioners. This should clearly set out their roles, obligations, responsibilities, and performance standards such as decision timeframes (including the issuance of section 37 notices if required).  This process needs to ensure there are a sufficient number of Commissioners with the right skills and with clear accountabilities and a commitment to meeting agreed timeframes.  This should, in part at least, address the issues of timeframe management and over-reliance on certain Commissioners.

RMA Recommendation 3: Pre-Lodgement Cost Recovery

ECan should consider cost recovery pre-lodgement, to remove the perceived barrier to more effective pre-application engagement with major applicants – in line with the practice used by most councils.  

RMA Recommendation 4: Case Management for Large Consents

We believe that ECan needs a ‘case management operating model for large/complex consent applications.  Significant resource consent applications (e.g. large takes) or applications that have multiple aspects to them (e.g., takes, discharges, structures, joint land use hearing with the territorial authority, etc), should be specifically case managed.  The focus should be on greater clarity around role and strategy and will include significant pre-application engagement and team mobilisation.  There should be a senior person appointed to manage the process and to be the ‘go to’ person for internal experts, the applicant and submitters.

The skills required include: project management ability, strong communications and stakeholder management skills, experience in processing larger scale resource consent applications, understanding of the RMA purpose and processes, and an in-depth appreciation of the Canterbury Policy and Planning framework.

RMA Recommendation 5: Stakeholder Engagement

We recommend that ECan institute an ‘account management’ approach for dealing with major stakeholder groups, in much the same way as exists with territorial authorities.  Senior members of staff would have responsibility for developing and maintaining relationships with specific groups or organisations, including potential applicants, NGOs, and industry groups.

RMA Recommendation 6: Iwi Liaison

The Review Group recommends that iwi liaison be elevated in importance within ECan.  We suggest that, in line with other major cross-organisational programmes, iwi liaison should be placed within the Regional Programmes Directorate, elevated in importance (to a management role), rebranded as Iwi Relations, and provided significantly more resourcing.

ECan should define and agree roles, responsibilities and priorities with Ngāi Tahu, including provision of appropriately skilled staff and establish budget provisions that allow ECan to acquire technical tangata whenua advice from tangata whenua resource management entities such as Mahaanui Kurataiao; an organisation that is currently jointly funded by Christchurch City Council, Waimakariri and Selwyn District Councils.  ECan would also need to work proactively with the Rūnanga of South Canterbury and Kaikōura to establish similar arrangements.

RMA Recommendation 7: Fit for Purpose of Legal Team

We recommend ECan undertake a review of its internal legal team to ensure it is fit for purpose (in terms of resourcing, capability and experience), and consider seeking alternative advice from outside the council, when required.

LGA Recommendation 1: New Triennial Agreement

We recommend the establishment of a new Triennial Agreement that improves role clarity and protocols.  We note that the Canterbury Regional Water Authority once established will also have a part to play in this.

LGA Recommendation 2: Chief Executives Forum

We recommend the formal establishment of a Chief Executives’ Forum that parallels the Mayoral Forum.

LGA Recommendation 3: Review of Public Transport Functions

Undertake a review to consider the optimum arrangement for the management and operation of the public transport fleet within the Region.  The Commission would act on that review when completed.