The Thames-Coromandel District mayor says climate change is still a priority for the council - despite it not signing a nationwide declaration.
Councillors have voted against the Local Government New Zealand document, which puts responsibility on councils to play their part in mitigating climate change.
In front of 30 vocal environmental campaigners in the public gallery, Thames-Coromandel District councillors voted six to three against signing the climate change declaration.
Mayor Sandra Goudie was one of the six. She said the declaration has unknown financial and legal consequences for the council.
Read the full Climate Change Declaration here:
"The document actually says 'we've got to commit to ambitious plans'," Ms Goudie said. "But it doesn't say what the ambitious plans are and it doesn't give any indication of what that might cost.
"You've got to be so careful about the financial pressure you put onto communities and families."
The declaration commits councils to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, supporting renewable energy and promoting low-carbon transport options. Of the 78 councils in the country, 60 have signed it.
Ms Goudie said despite voting against it, she wanted to reassure local campaigners that climate change is a priority for the council.
"We can't do much more than we are doing and we can only keep our door open and invite them to engage as much as they would like to with us," she said.
"And I have invited them to present to council on some of their ideas."
For Sheena Beaton from the Hauraki Coromandel Climate Action Group, the decision was "devastating".
She was one of 30 protesters who huddled into the public forum meeting wearing life jackets to symbolise the "impending rising sea level".
Ms Beaton said while the decision was not surprising it was still very disappointing.
"To be shut down and ignored by our so-called leaders is really disappointing," Ms Beaton said. "And I feel it is really irresponsible behaviour by our elected leaders to not be taking this seriously.
"There were tears - we were crying," she said. "We're not expecting them to do this alone.
"It's a no-brainer, to me, to implement some sustainable practices for our community," she said. "To build resilience in the face of climate change, which is a reality for our area."
Fifteen-year-old student Lillian Balfour was one of two Thames High students to present to the council in the meeting. She said despite today's defeat, she would continue to make her voice heard to community leaders.
"We will definitely be back," Ms Balfour said. "It gave more incentive to have a brave win after this brave defeat."
Mrs Goudie said she was impressed by the students and wants to work with them in the future. In the meantime, she said the council will continue to look to the government to lead the way on climate change.