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Taking action on climate change

02 April 2019

Today our Council agreed to keep taking action in response to climate change for our communities in Thames-Coromandel.

Council meeting 2 April 2019

Matters around climate change were discussed as part of today’s full Council meeting, where Councillors agreed to take a broad view on how our Council can help mitigate the drivers of climate change, and to look at how other councils are responding to carbon management and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

Our Council was asked to consider signing the Local Government Leaders’ Climate Change Declaration – a document drafted by Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) that commits councils to plans to reduce greenhouse gases, increase resource efficiency, promote public and low-carbon transport and support the use of renewable energy.

The majority of Councillors (six) voted against a resolution to sign the declaration, while three were in favour.

Councillors welcomed the large public forum at this morning’s meeting and the members of the community who came to present their views to Council around climate change.

Mayor Sandra says it was encouraging that most of those presenting to Council agreed that Council's actions spoke louder than words when it comes to the climate change challenge.

While our Council has not signed the declaration, it is already committed to working on many of the initiatives within the declaration itself. These include:

  • Supporting walking and cycling infrastructure within our communities;
  • Supporting a public transport service in Thames and the uptake of electric vehicles through working to develop a network of charging stations across the district;
  • Proactively engaging with our coastal communities on shoreline management plans that will identify long term management strategies for each coastal community, and will take into account projected sea level rise scenarios associated with climate change;
  • Advocating to central government on leading the response for small coastal communities like ours when it comes to possible threats to infrastructure, private property, the local economy and livelihoods.

"Both LGNZ and Council will continue to look at the Government to lead the way forward," Mayor Sandra says.

Our Mayor says she was very impressed by the presentation to Council from two Thames High School students, and wants to work with them to follow up on their request to share more public education on climate change.

Mayor Sandra says the decision not to sign the declaration does not mean our Council does not take climate change seriously.

However, she says the initiatives described in the declaration have not yet been canvassed across the district and have unknown financial and legal consequences.

In her view, the declaration has the potential to be a legally binding document, and Council and individual elected members could be at risk if it did not uphold all the initiatives. 

"This declaration doesn’t indemnify us from action or inaction," Mayor Sandra says.

She points to an example where Forest & Bird took the New Plymouth District Council to the Environment Court in 2015, saying it was in breach of its Memorandum of Understanding in a case involving significant natural areas. You can read more about this here.

"The only way we can be protected is if Government imdemnifies us, so we are vulnerable either way," Mayor Sandra says.

“There have been statements out there that I’m a climate change denier – this is patently incorrect and misrepresents the facts,” Mayor Sandra says.

“Our Council will continue to take action, following robust decision-making processes, in response to climate change for our communities,” Mayor Sandra says.

The Council passed a resolution asking staff to take a broad view of the actions undertaken to mitigate the drivers of climate change and to scan how other councils are responding to carbon management and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

Protecting our coast

Here are some of the proactive things our Council is are doing to ensure our communities are engaged, prepared, protected and safe in the long-term.

• In February 2018 Council adopted the Government’s revised climate change guidance, as published in the Ministry for the Environment’s ‘Coastal Hazards and Climate Change Guidance for Local Government’.

• In June 2018 our Council adopted its Coastal Management Strategy, which sets out a range of initiatives we will be taking over the coming years to better manage our coastal assets and understand the risk of coastal inundation and coastal erosion. The 2018-2028 Long Term Plan includes $2.6 million over three years to help us implement this strategy. You can read more about our Coastal Management Strategy here

• Our Council’s Proposed District Plan (view here) also includes policies that are aimed at protecting the natural features and landscapes of the Coromandel’s coastal environments, and managing the effects of flooding, coastal erosion and tsunami.  

• Among other initiatives, we have supported the set-up of the Coromandel Electric Vehicle Scenic Touring Route, which is a network of fast-charging stations for electric vehicles at key points around the Coromandel on SH25. Read more here