From our Chair: Reflecting on a term of achievements

Three years ago, I had the honour and privilege of being sworn in as Chair of Canterbury’s regional council — our first fully elected council in just under a decade.

Jenny Hughey, outgoing Chair of Environment Canterbury

Jenny Hughey, outgoing Chair of Environment Canterbury

The electoral cycle means there is now a ‘changing of the guard’, with the final votes of the latest election now confirmed.

I decided not to stand for re-election as I believe it’s the right time for some new energy around the table.

In stepping aside, I have found myself reflecting on the council’s time together and all that we’ve achieved.

To those councillors who’ve also chosen not to return, I sincerely thank you for your contribution and wish you well wherever your journey takes you.

Staying connected

It’s fair to say our term was punctuated by disruption — from flooding events to COVID lockdowns.

The pandemic meant we were unable to get out and about as much as we would have liked. It forced us all to look at new ways of working.

Throughout this upheaval, our council was determined to maintain a connection with the community and bring people into the democratic process.

In this, we succeeded. For instance, the number of submissions received for our most recent Annual Plan was remarkable (2,800), and it was empowering to have so many voices influence our decisions.

Public participation

In fact, one of the most rewarding aspects of my time in council has been hearing from you — the public.

We saw more people than ever attend council meetings and speak at our citizens’ forums, sharing ideas and providing a sounding board.

These conversations shaped our work and helped us understand the impacts of our activities on communities. This has gone a long way towards restoring democracy at the regional council.

This type of participation is vital to a healthy democracy, and I thank every one of you who took the time to tell us what you think.

Key achievements

While there were many achievements that I’m fiercely proud of, a few in particular stand out:

  • The passing of the Canterbury Regional Council (Ngāi Tahu Representation) Act — to be in parliament as the Bill passed was simply magic
  • Establishing public-facing committees
  • The launch of It’s Time, Canterbury, a region-wide campaign to raise awareness of climate change issues and challenges
  • Making public transport cheaper and more accessible, with the scene set for next year’s trial of $2 flat fares
  • Launching the Waitaha Action to Impact Fund to help community groups deliver great projects on the ground.

I'd also like to congratulate our staff, including our chief executive and her predecessor, for their commitment to implementing the Living Wage.

We recently applied to be an accredited Living Wage employer. If successful, we’ll be the first regional council to gain this recognition.

I'm passionate about how wage levels can affect people’s ability to access basic rights such as housing and actively participate in society.

Thank you

Being a councillor is not about sitting in an office and imposing rules on people. It’s about working with communities to hear as many views as possible, making decisions and finding a way forward.

I believe the incoming group is set up well to take our work further, and I wish them tremendous success for the term ahead.

And finally, I would like to thank you, the community, for getting involved and being interested in your region. This is how democracy should function.

We couldn’t have done what we did without you.