The Environment Canterbury (Transitional Governance Arrangements) Act

The Environment Canterbury (Transitional Governance Arrangements) Act 2016 ("the new ECan Act") commenced on 9 May 2016 and replaces the Environment Canterbury (Temporary Commissioners and Improved Water Management) Act 2010 ("the old ECan Act). 

The new ECan Act provides for the governing body of Canterbury Regional Council (“CRC”) for the 2016 to 2019 local authority election-cycle period.  The previous governance arrangements, where the elected members of the CRC were appointed by the Government, are replaced with the majority of members of the CRC now being elected by the people of the Canterbury region.   During this transition period (being the period between the 2016 and 2019 elections) the governing body of the CRC will comprise 4 to 7 elected members and 3 to 6 appointed members.

The new ECan Act also provides for the continuation of some of the modified resource management processes that applied under the old ECan Act, whereas in some instances standard RMA processes are reverted to.

Water Conservation Orders

 The old ECan Act set out a special process for the processing of WCOs in Canterbury, where the Minister referred accepted applications to the CRC.

The new ECan Act reinstates the processing of WCOs under Part 9 of the RMA.   The process now is that a person may apply to the Minister for the making of an WCO.  The application must identify the water body concerns, state the reasons for the application and describe the provisions that should be included in the WCO and the effect those provisions would have on the water body.   Upon receipt of the application, the Minister either appoints a special tribunal to hear the application or can reject it.  The WCO application is then publicly notified, submissions received, and a hearing held.   The special tribunal prepares a report on the application and the Governor-General can then make a WCO based on that report. 

There is also an additional step, which acts like an appeal on the special tribunal's report, where the applicant or any person who made a submission may make a submission to the Environment Court.  The Court can then hold an inquiry into the report. 

Implications for RMA policies and plans

Consistent with the old ECan Act, the new ECan Act provides that when considering any proposed regional policy statement or plan the Council must have particular regard to the vision and principles of the Canterbury Water Management Strategy.  This is in addition to the matters relevant under the RMA. 

There remains no right to appeal to the Environment Court in respect of a decision of the Council.  There is only a right to appeal questions of law to the High Court.

Moratorium on applications under the RMA

Section 34 of the old ECan Act provided that the CRC may, with the prior approval of the Minister, impose a moratorium on specified applications in relation to one or more areas of the Canterbury region.  These can be applications for water or discharge permits.

This power was not transferred over into the new ECan Act.


The new ECan Act has moved the legal landscape for Canterbury closer to the normal processes under the RMA, Local Government Act 2002 and Local Electoral Act 2001.  However, there are still special arrangements for the governing body of the CRC in that the governing body is now made up of a combination of elected and appointed members, and there remain bespoke resource management processes where appeal rights are limited and the vision and principles of the Canterbury Water Management Strategy must be had regard to when considering any proposed regional policy statement or plan.

Last updated at 2:37PM on November 17, 2017