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‘Time to act is now’

Call for GDC to follow Government lead on climate change.

Parliament's declaration yesterday of a climate change emergency provides an imperative for Gisborne District Council to do the same, says councillor and Green Party East Coast candidate Meredith Akuhata-Brown.

But Mayor Rehette Stoltz says the council is working through its priorities for the next Ten Year Plan.

“Climate change is already a focus for us but we will wait and see what the Government's new proposed Climate Change Emergency announcement will mean for us as local government,” Mrs Stoltz said.

“If we do decide to take that path it will not be a token declaration.

“We will need to make sure we have the resources to back up what we want to achieve, and we will have to work closely with central government to assist us with achieving our shared goals.”

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the motion, passed with support from the Greens and the Maori Party, acknowledged the next generation and the burden they would carry “if action is not taken now”.

The declaration of an emergency needed to be followed up with action by the Government, she said.

Gisborne District councillors decided in December not to adopt such a motion, with Mrs Akuhata-Brown and fellow councillors Shannon Dowsing and Bill Burdett voting against a recommendation that did not include a climate emergency declaration.

Working on ways to address global warming

Mrs Akuhata-Brown told The Gisborne Herald yesterday the time to act was now.

She “absolutely” supported council passing a climate change emergency declaration.

“In declaring an emergency we say we need to act now and do more.”

The Government's move would ensure those in local government would work harder and smarter to do everything they could to mitigate climate change and look at adaptation and solutions, she said.

“The Tairawhiti region needs to act faster and plan strategically for now and the future as we are faced with some real issues of coastal erosion and landscape challenges.

“Wet weather events and drought will have huge impacts on our region, especially within our horticulture, viticulture and agriculture industries.

“We already have to deal with high rates of soil erosion and land movement within the region and we are looking at water storage and availability issues.

“Tairawhiti needs to heed the latest climate change projections and impacts that have been reported on by NIWA.”

Mrs Akuhata-Brown said climate change was the defining long-term issue “of our generation” that successive governments had failed to address.

“The passing of the Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Act was a great start. However, we need ongoing action.”

In December, Cr Dowsing said he was surprised a climate change declaration was not the first recommendation to the council, given the number of elected members who committed to such a declaration while on the campaign trail for that year's local body elections.

The council was spending more than $30 million upgrading the Waipaoa stopbanks to cope with the effects of climate change.

“Why are we spending that and not trying to address the root cause?”

Matakaoa-Waiapu ward councillor Burdett also voted against it, citing the need to consult with his community.

The December report before councillors noted that declaring a “meaningful” climate emergency would require the council to reprioritise its spending, which it could do in the 2021-31 Long Term Plan.

Council chief executive Nedine Thatcher Swann explained the recommendation was for the council to just acknowledge the need to reprioritise spending if it declared a climate emergency.

The recommendation (without a climate change emergency declaration) was supported by all other councillors and Mayor Stoltz, who said since June, when the council first opted not to declare a climate emergency, it had been working on ways to address global warming.

These included tracking the council's greenhouse gas emissions, including those of its trading organisation Gisborne Holdings Ltd.

Gisborne-based Green list MP Dr Elizabeth Kerekere said declaring the emergency was only the beginning.

“Now is the time for decisive action in energy, transport and agriculture.

“It is time to ensure our iwi, local councils and communities are all part of the solutions we will need.”