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1. Introduction

This report summarises the results of a performance assessment of Environment Canterbury (ECan) under the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) and Local Government Act 2002 (LGA).

The assessment was commissioned by the Minister for the Environment and the Minister of Local Government in response to significant concerns expressed from within Canterbury as to Environment Canterbury’s performance in the carrying out if its responsibilities, along with the poor outcome of Environment Canterbury in surveys of performance of responsibilities under the RMA conducted by the Ministry for the Environment for the year 2007/2008.

The Review was commissioned in November 2009.  Rather than hold a protracted inquiry, the Ministers sought a high level overview of the performance of ECan across the range of its activities.  The assessment was undertaken by a group appointed by the Minister for the Environment (Hon Dr Nick Smith) and the Minister of Local Government (Hon Rodney Hide).  The membership of the Review Group was:

Rt. Hon Wyatt Creech (Chair)
Doug Martin
Greg Hill
Doug Low

To ensure that the report covered all aspects of the issues of concern, the Minister for the Environment instructed as follows:

  1. The Chair was asked to consider the overall position with a special emphasis on the political relationships within the Council and the broader community.
  2. MartinJenkins was asked to operate as lead Reviewer for the overall Resource Management Act aspects of the ECan’s performance review.
  3. Greg Hill, an experienced planner, was asked to review the detail of ECan’s RMA resource consenting performance. 
  4. The Group acted in conjunction with Morrison Low (appointed by the Minister for Local Government) as lead reviewer for the Local Government Act perspective of the review.

While each Reviewer brought different skills to the Review process, the Group itself acted as a single team in consideration of the issues and working to conclusions.  The recommendations are unanimously supported by all members of the Group.

The Review draws on a considerable body of work obtained both from interviews and analysis of documents.  The interviews included detailed discussions with:

  • The Council Chair, individual councillors, councillors as a group, the Chief Executive, Directors, and with council staff.
  • A wide range of external stakeholders with differing viewpoints and interests who interact with ECan on a range of levels. This list deliberately included groups known to have widely contrasting views.  A full list of stakeholders interviewed is attached as Appendix Two.

The Review has also had the benefit of analysing a range of documents supplied by ECan and external stakeholders.  Both MartinJenkins and Morrison Low have considerable experience in designing and assessing organisational performance.  In reaching its conclusions this assessment has the benefit of the Review Group’s knowledge of practice in other comparable agencies.

The Review Group notes that all matters to do with water management in Canterbury are of much greater difficulty in determining policy and resolving than other issues identified in the Terms of Reference.  This is reflected in the way we have structured the Report, with a section focused entirely on water management and the institutional challenges associated with water.  There are a number of findings and recommendations arising from the Review that are related to the other matters contained within the Terms of Reference. 

1.1   Scope of this Review

This Review has three components.  The first component, dealing with issues associated with  water management, was one of the contextual matters referred to in the Terms of Reference, but ,as noted above emerged as by far the most significant issue facing the Region, and ECan.

The second component is a statutory investigation under section 24A of the RMA that seeks to identify what has led to ECan’s poor performance record over the last survey period and its subsequent performance in resource consent processing.  Although much of this relates specifically to challenges associated with water management, it also aims to identify any broader planning, policy and governance matters that may have contributed to the poor performance record of Environment Canterbury during the 2007/2008 survey period in meeting statutory requirements under the RMA. 

The third component is a non-statutory assessment of whether there are wider issues with ECan’s governance, policies or implementation that are contributing to perceived poor performance under the LGA or other statutes. 

1.2   The Terms of Reference

The Terms of Reference defines the scope of the Review as:

Investigation of Environment Canterbury’s performance under the RMA and identification of possible solutions.  The investigation covers the following matters:

  • Guidance for applicants and use of Section 88 (making an application)
  • Use of Section 92 (seeking further information)
  • Analysis of consent processing systems and practices
  • Staffing and use of resources
  • Administrative systems and tools
  • Internal audits and monitoring
  • Relationships between applicants and submitters and ECan
  • Relationship of timeframes to quality of decisions
  • Other contextual matters, including:
    • The management of sustainability limits and cumulative effects
    • Adequacy of current planning framework for delivering the vision and objectives of the Canterbury Water Management Strategy in an effective and efficient manner

Assessment of Environment Canterbury’s wider performance under the LGA02 or other legislation and identify possible solutions.  The non-statutory assessment will cover the following factors:

  • The approach of ECan to meeting its legal obligations
  • Adequacy of ECan’s governance 
  • Adequacy of ECan’s management and decision making processes
  • The relationships between ECan and the territorial authorities in its Region, and extent to which ECan and TA’s have met their legal obligations for collaborating and co-operating.

The full Terms of Reference is in Appendix One.