Back in 2010, the National government overthrew to democratically elected Canterbury Regional Council and appointed dictators to give the region's water away to farmers. And since then, that's exactly what they've been doing, by undermining Water Conservation Orders, overallocating catchments and allowing increased pollution. But even that isn't enough: there are still rules on the books about how much water farmers are allowed to take. ECan's solution is simple: ignore them, even in cases of blatant water theft:
Forest & Bird has lifted the lid on what it claims to be a massive water theft in Canterbury.
The conservation group has released data obtained under the Official Information Act showing those with consents to take water have taken hundreds of millions of litres more than they were entitled to.
The information reveals water was illegally taken from creeks that eventually ran dry, including during low-flow restrictions when rivers were at their most parched.
Environment Canterbury (ECan) did not prosecute any of 376 cases of serious breaches, despite many offenders being caught "red-handed", Forest & Bird says.
One case includes an irrigator who was found to have illegally taken 31 million litres of water from the Manuka Creek over 42 days. Forty of those days were during low-flow restrictions. The offender received an abatement notice.
376 cases and no prosecutions? There's no doubt about it: ECan is simply refusing to enforce the law. And sadly, with dictators having an inbuilt majority in the new transitional regime, there's no hope of a policy change after the October elections, no matter how much voters want it.