Apr 27, 2010

Valedictory of Jane Demeter

“I, Jane Demeter., declare that I will faithfully and impartially..........

...and according to the best of my skill and judgement, execute and perform, in the best interests of the Canterbury Region, the powers, authorities and duties vested in or imposed upon me as a member of the Canterbury Regional Council by virtue of the Local Government Act 2002, the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act 1987, or any other Act.”

This is the oath that I took to represent Canterbury on 24 October 2007. Note the phrase “in the best interests of the Canterbury Region” - not of one interest group or sector, not one area.

Representing all of Canterbury was my contract with the community – or so I thought until we were forcibly removed by Canterbury Temporary Commissioners and Improved Water Management Act.

It is a privilege and a responsibility to represent Canterbury as one of a diverse group of Councillors representing the diversity of our Canterbury community.

The guiding principle of our work is not the management of resources but the sustainable management of resources. There is a huge difference requiring a strategic approach to ensure we are not only providing for the current generation but also for their children’s children.

I dedicated my term in office to the late Murray Lane whose concern, integrity and passion for our rivers and waterways taught me much. He attended most Council meetings and listened carefully with his three coloured cards in hand – green, amber and red. – and raised the card he thought appropriate to the decision being made by the Council. Were he here today he would be outraged at the removal of elected representatives.

It’s all about water. Water brought me here and water takes me out before the end of my contract with Canterbury. I draw your attention to the screen with its Ashley Smith painting “Tug O’ Water”. This is what it is all about. This dagger to the heart of democracy takes New Zealand on a slippery slope that history will not be kind to. This puts us out there with Angola, Iraq, Chile and Fiji – not a good place to be.

It has been a journey of opportunity and learning and it seems a long time since as a child I helped my Dad move sheep from our flooding paddocks next to the Hurunui River. It was the quality of Hurunui River water that started my journey to Environment Canterbury and it is water that forcibly removes me from my Councillor role.

To my Councillor colleagues, present and past: Thank you for the discussion, for the debate and for putting up your hand for this role. Playing your active role in democracy is more important than ever. Thanks for diverting your lives for public good to a role with no job security.

To my husband, Bill, and my family: Thanks for your support and encouragement and for accepting that you wouldn’t see much of me for this term of office.

To our staff whose work underpins the decisions of Council: Thank you. Your professionalism underpinned by good science is an integral part of the service you deliver, in spite of the barbs you receive. Your support and encouragement have been invaluable. Stay the course and be strong.

And thanks to our community for the stewardship and concern for Canterbury.

Responsibilities have taken me the length and breadth of Canterbury from Kekerengu to Kurow. To see first hand our stunning natural assets and talk with landowners and community groups whose lives are intertwined with those resources is inspiring and humbling. Close work with our staff in our 63 river rating committees and the Regional Biodiversity Strategy partners has allowed me to see successful decision making at the local level.

A poignant moment that comes to mind was hearing a landowner say “It wasn’t that I didn’t care, it was just that I didn’t know” and his farm is now a fine example of what we can achieve together. And so our education and advocacy roles should remain.

How ironic that today is Earth Day – its 40th year, and here in Canterbury we are witness to the removal of Councillors working to make the next generation as well or better off than this one,

Minister Smith is announcing commissioners this afternoon to (quote) “satisfy the community” (unquote). I wonder which “community” he speaks of? – that of self interest, money and power?

“When a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully”. I’ve concentrated my mind over the last few weeks and I’ve concluded this hanging is simply based on power and greed. 
Greed by people who want to take water from the people in order to make short term gains whatever the costs to society and the misuse of power by a government and power hungry mayors who have lost their moral compass. 
I fear for the community voice going forward and encourage you to take every opportunity to raise your voice.

This term saw our hugely important policy work developing a second generation Regional Policy Statement and releasing the Natural Resources Regional Plan. These are our regions most significant planning documents. To be forcibly removed before seeing these documents through their expected course during our term does not sit well with me.

As we approach ANZAC day I am reminded that my father did not serve during the Second World War to see democracy snuffed. We should all be standing in front of the bulldozer as they come for the Canterbury Regional Council in this shameful stomping on of democracy.

I leave you with the Ngai Tahu saying:

Mo tatou, a, mo ka uri, a muri ake nei

For us and our children after us

Thank you

Picture courtesy of It's Our City, Inc