South Canterbury has six candidates running for the two SC seats in Environment Canterbury during next month’s election. In the lead-up, Courier reporter Greta Yeomanhas put several questions to the possible councillors. In the first of a two-part series, The Courier asks the candidates why they are standing, what they bring to the council table, their views on the council’s proposed Plan Change 7, and what their thoughts are about climate change. First up are Elizabeth McKenzie, Jared Ross and Herstall Ulrich. The September 12 edition will feature Phil Driver, Peter Scott and Peter McIlraith.
Science researcher Dr Elizabeth McKenzie is standing for Environment Canterbury (ECan) and has plenty of plans if she gets elected.
Her main goals, if voted in, would be urgently developing a 15-year climate emergency plan, as well as addressing the loss of insect life from around Canterbury, and advocating for reducing methane and carbon dioxide emissions to slow down global warming to allow adaptation.
“It seems illogical to me [however] to target farmers with climate change mitigation measures if unrestricted shipping, tourism, and population growth are allowed to continue.”
She had been inspired to stand due to seeing, in her research work, the impact society was having on the planet.
“The impact of humans on the planet became more urgent and important to me than anything else I was doing.”
She said her presence on the council would bring “a less conservative, more progressive voice to ECan, and a female voice”, as well as her long-standing scientific background.
“I think that the female perspective, which tends towards longer-term thinking, risk-averseness, co-operation, and transparency, is required to balance the existing male culture.”
Dr McKenzie said the aims of Plan Change 7 to achieve protection of prehistoric sites, higher river flows, water quality and fish passage, were “good”, but she did not believe the plan went “anywhere far enough, fast enough” regarding nitrate levels.
Ensuring economic sustainability through agriculture while balancing environmental considerations is of “paramount” importance to Herstall Ulrich.
The sheep, beef and dairy farmer, who has also been on boards for Silver Fern Farms, Farm IQ and Aoraki Polytechnic boards, as well as holding current directorial roles with VetLife and Opuha Water Ltd, said his governance experience had given him the ability to listen to different points of view, research and analyse evidence and fully debate a topic.
“From that I endeavour to make sensible and pragmatic decisions, based on scientific fact.”
The current deputy chairman of the Orari-Temuka-Opihi-Pareora (OTOP) water zone committee said his goals, if elected, would be holding the council to account for achieving strategic goals and financial plans set by council, “keeping a balance” between the four pillars of the Resource Management Act (ecological, economic, cultural and social), and weighing-up between increasing the “rate burden” while managing to fund projects.
He would also encourage ECan to be “more empathetic and pragmatic” when implementing plans and policies.
Mr Ulrich was unsure if the council’s climate emergency declaration would actually make a difference as most decisions concerning mitigation were, and should be, being made by central government.
Proposed flow levels and allocations in Plan Change 7 for the Opihi and its tributaries were going to be “particularly difficult for farmers”, Mr Ulrich said.
“I am not convinced that PC7 has a sustainable balance between the four pillars of the RMA.”
Waitaki farmer Jared Ross said he was standing to be part of the next generation of contributing to “robust decision-making”.
“My generation needs to be getting on and taking the lead for our children and their future.”
“I bring the knowledge that the role is not about me, but is very much representing the views of South Canterbury and tributaries of the Waitaki.”
The North Otago Federated Farmers dairy section chairman said it was important to respect the work that had been done already, to contribute to a “smooth transition” away from the commissioners, to encourage more collaboration between mayors, district councils and ECan, and continue to promote economic development in the region.
He was also aware that the Regional Air Plan had not been well-received by residents in Timaru and Waimate, and that there was demand for reconsideration.
The new council needed to reconsider the climate declaration made earlier this year, as central government was still working on plans without the need for a “regional-level sideshow”, Mr Ross said.
He said there was “heavy dissatisfaction” about Plan Change 7 and the impact it would have affected communities.
“I understand both the economic and ecological analysis is light and insufficient to rationally justify the likely economic impacts.”
The September 12 edition will feature Phil Driver, Peter Scott and Peter McIlraith. The running order of candidates has been selected by alphabetical order.