20 May 2021

ECan councillors in a flap over rates rise debate

2:58 pm on 20 May 2021

There was confusion at the Canterbury Regional Council meeting this morning, as it met to deliberate on its long-term plan.

Exterior shots of the Canterbury regional council ECAN (Environment Canterbury) offices.

Photo: RNZ / Nate McKinnon

The council recently consulted with the public on whether to increase rates revenue by 24.5 percent (option 1) or 18 percent (option 2) next financial year.

The council staff recommended option 1, with some parts of the long-term plan rephrased.

Councillors indicated they wanted to follow staff advice as a starting point to carry out deliberations.

Environment Canterbury chair Jenny Hughey.

Jenny Hughey Photo: Supplied / ECan

Council chair Jenny Hughey believed there was no need for a debate on the issue, and proceeded to move on with the meeting.

This prompted confused faces among councillors across the table.

Among those who thought a debate was needed was councillor Lan Pham, who seconded the motion to proceed with the staff option as a starting point.

"I just thought that in our process discussion that this was a starting point for general discussion about the options," she said.

A confused Hughey subsequently put the meeting on hold.

"I just might adjourn the meeting for a minute because I don't actually know what we're doing here, so I'm just going to stop for a minute and take some advice," she said.

After the adjournment, Hughey ruled that there would be no debate, and said the staff advice had already been accepted by councillors.

But there was more confusion to come.

This time it was around the use of the words option 1, and Hughey adjourned the meeting for a second time.

After more legal consultation, Hughey said the motion should actually read: "the council receives submissions on options and rates affordability, and adopts staff advice based on option 1 ... as presented in today's deliberation, before considering each deliberation".

"That's what I thought we were adopting when we did option 1, but there has been a misunderstanding here so we have now got it sorted and that's what we're moving," she said.

Councillors finally appeared to be on the same page, and the motion was passed without objection.

"Anybody against? No, thank goodness," Hughey said.

The councillors proceeded to make deliberations based on the staff recommendation (option 1, but with parts rephrased).

However, today's meeting would not make the final decision on which rates option to choose.

That will be decided in June.

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