South Canterbury has six candidates running for the two SC seats on Environment Canterbury in next month’s election. In the second of a two-part series, Courier reporter Greta Yeoman puts several questions to possible councillors Phil Driver, Peter Scott and Peter McIlraith. The candidates are asked 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. The first three profiles can be viewed here.
Dr Phil Driver, who was involved with ECan’s Water Management Strategy consultations back in 2008, said he was standing due to being “hugely frustrated” that a lot of the Canterbury community’s wishes from the strategy had “gone backwards”.
“ECan, under its non-democratically appointed commissioners, has permitted and even promoted a massive expansion in irrigation and farm intensification, especially dairying with its consequent serious water, land and air pollution.”
He said he had “extensive” scientific and engineering knowledge regarding water management and climate change, as well as governance experience.
“We have a climate and ecological emergency, so ECan needs people who understand what this means and will act on it for everyone’s wellbeing.”
He said climate issues were one of his main reasons for standing, saying he wanted a well-supported, rigorous climate mitigation and adaption strategy.
“This is likely to include incentives ranging from financial support through to enforced legislation.”
Dr Driver was critical of the flow and allocation regimes in Plan Change 7, saying he was one of several OTOP committee members who voted against them because they “failed to adequately address decades of environmental damage to our precious water”.
“[The plan] goes part-way towards addressing some of the issues but it will still allow levels of water pollution that will continue to kill our freshwater species and threaten our drinking water. That’s simply not good enough.”
Past collaboration with Environment Canterbury during his time on the Waimate District Council and as the town’s deputy mayor left Peter McIlraith with “grave concerns” about the dominance of ECan in provincial areas, particularly due to the appointed commissioners.
He was now set to stand for the regional council with promises to hold ECan to account, in both financial transparency and policy formation, and said his track record on the Waimate District Council showed he would “fight for the rights and desires of the people”.
Mr McIlraith said he believed the science behind many of the council’s plans was “mature enough to base good law and enforcement”. He particularly critiqued the “invasive regulation” of the “smoke police and arbitrary rules on log burners”.
“[This] is evidence of bureaucracy walking all over people’s liberty.”
He said while he was not a “climate refuter” he did not support the current council’s decision to declare a climate emergency, and opposed the “hysteria and scaremongering” of climate “alarmists”.
“Science has, in my opinion, never been more compromised by outside influence. Both sides have been guilty of sensationalism.”
Mr McIlraith said Plan Change 7 was “premature but has some good points”, but once technology was at the stage where it showed excessive pollution was occurring, land use needed to change – as long as compensation occurred.
“Those farms are there legally and if rules change, the state should support rules to change. Having said that, there is far too much compliance cost being levied on low emitters.”
Allowing Environment Canterbury to have a “smooth transition” to a fully elected entity is the goal of Peter Scott if he gets back on.
The incumbent South Canterbury councillor and Pleasant Point crop farmer said he would continue the work he had been involved with over the past three years if re-elected, as well as helping the council transition to a fully democratic entity.
“We will have a council of 14 and it is likely that up to nine of these people will be serving a first term as councillors.
“With a big region and a lot of voices at the table, I want to ensure that South Canterbury is not left out.”
The council had been aware of climate change for the past decade but this focus had been particularly in-depth over the past 18 months, Mr Scott said.
“My personal concern is the water cycle and how that will affect our ability to continue to function as we are today in 20 to 50 years’ time.”
He would be looking at the effects of this and infrastructure needed to help manage it.
Plan Change 7 was a “collaborative” piece of planning that had a “wholly democratic” submission and hearings process, Mr Scott said.
* A previous edition of this story said Peter McIlraith was formerly mayor of the Waimate District. He was deputy mayor.