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Plans for ECan started before election - papers

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Trevor Mallard
Trevor Mallard

Wellington, April 27 NZPA - Planning for an inquiry into Canterbury's water problems began before the last election and officials told the previous government the problems could be more important for the economy than Auckland's governance issues, Cabinet papers show.

Former Labour environment minister Trevor Mallard sought advice from the Ministry for the Environment on a possible inquiry into Environment Canterbury (ECan), The Press newspaper reported.

"Backlogs in resource consent processing, caused by a surge in new applications for taking water coupled with a shortage of appropriately qualified and skilled staff, are adding further fuel to expressions of public concern. This concern is also evident about and from ... Environment Canterbury," officials said.

Hawke's Bay faced similar water pressures, officials said.

"Currently, a comparable inquiry is under way on Auckland's governance issues which, while different in substance, point to a similar need to find a tailored solution to a regional problem which has national economic significance. In that respect, the Canterbury region is at least as crucial to the national economy as Auckland, and some would say more so."

Mr Mallard said the inquiry was not done because of the 2008 election.

"If you look at the timing of all of that, it got to the point where I thought it was inappropriate to head towards intervening. But we were looking at designing a solution."

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