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‘No’ to climate change move

Gisborne district councillors have rejected a move to declare a climate change emergency.

Councillors, sitting as Future Tairawhiti, adopted a recommendation committing the council to a ‘‘regional climate leadership’’ role, which supports a joint and collaborative approach to addressing climate change without dissent.

But councillors rejected a further “emergency declaration” step moved by Josh Wharehinga and seconded by Rehette Stoltz.

Mrs Stoltz, who chaired the meeting in the absence of Mayor Meng Foon, said there was a worldwide move of jurisdictions declaring a climate change emergency.

It was happening around New Zealand.

“Don’t you think it behoves us to take that step to show it is serious.”

Councils in Christchurch, Nelson, Kapiti Coast and Environment Canterbury have made the declaration and Auckland City Council is considering doing likewise.

No, said Pat Seymour, immediately.

Mr Wharehinga said he wanted to make a statement to and on behalf of the community.

Councillors had received much information about the ‘‘massively severe effects’’ of climate change in Tairawhiti such as the erosion of beaches and the difficulties in water provision.

“It is enough for me to declare an emergency and enough for people in the community to see this is an emergency for them.’’

If the declaration was accepted council would need to factor climate change into activities such as building regulations.

Currently climate change was only considered in environment policies.

A statement of an emergency would give staff direction.

The East Coast was susceptible to climate change effects.

The statement needed to be made on behalf of the region, he said.

Council chief executive Nedine Thatcher Swann, asked how it would work, said a declaration was a clear statement to staff that “this needs to be prioritised and to get on with the work”.

It was also a statement to the community about “how important council sees this issue”.

The Zero Carbon Bill was a clear signal that there was an emergency.

“We’re likely to see more regulation in this space.’’

Pat Seymour said sending a message to staff was not consistent with how council operated.

“We don’t go around saying XYZ is an emergency and we need council officers to respond.

“It’s just a play on words.”

The already adopted recommendation gave a clear direction to the community.

The resulting information gained (under the accepted recommendation) was how council responded in its usual course of activity.

Council would move to reflect legislation.

“We don’t need to make a statement when we don’t know what the meaning of its effect is “

The declaration of a climate change emergency was defeated in a voice vote.

Mrs Stoltz said she would have liked to have declared an emergency, but there was no support for it.

Shannon Dowsing said he was not against the regional climate leadership recommendation, but he had concerns.

There was no delivery approach identifying the method, structure or the people who would be involved.

Climate change, by nature, opposed economic drivers and industry.

“I wouldn’t want to see industry lobbyists.”

Council had previously shown a lack of leadership because of economic considerations.

One example he gave was of the new council building only having single glazing and originally failing targets for energy efficiency.

Council had to move forward, but “with ‘teeth’’.

Ms Thatcher Swann said the delivery method would be the next step.

Gisborne District Council had been behind some councils in “advancing the discussion around climate change and how we fed that through to other plans”.

Council was ‘‘catching up”.

Staff would get more data and engage with the community around “how do we adapt to climate change”?

Many industries, nationally, were up to standard.

“That is how the world is going.’’

Amber Dunn said she supported the recommendation.

It was like an insurance policy, she said.

Andy Cranston said he was happy with the recommendation, which he understood committed council to the Local Government Leaders’ Climate Change Declaration.