Wellington regional council declares climate emergency

5:43 pm on 21 August 2019

Greater Wellington Regional Council has joined the chorus of local authorities declaring a climate emergency.

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File photo. Photo: RNZ

Today the council voted unanimously to declare a climate emergency.

It also voted to set a target for the council to become carbon neutral by 2030.

While the vote was unanimous, some concerns about the declaration were raised during the meeting.

Councillor Daran Ponter made it clear the council had no legislative support when it came to putting a "climate change lens" on everything council was doing.

Speaking after the meeting, he explained his position.

"We have legislation, for example, that says that we can control slope erosion on steep hill country in the Wairarapa, but we don't have any legislation that says 'you must plant trees because climate change is a-coming'."

Neither was there any legislation that allowed regional councils to add a congestion charge to control traffic, despite cars being some of the biggest polluters.

He said the declaration came with a challenge to central government about where it was going with its climate response, and how it would work with local authorities to give them more tools, so they would be able to get the job done.

Councillor Sue Kedgely, who was not running for re-election this year, said in declaring the emergency the council would join a global movement.

"I think climate declarations around the world are having an effect, people are waking up and starting to understand the gravity of the threat."

Roger Blakeley said the council could not continue with 'business as usual', and the cost of inaction was much greater than the cost of taking action.

Councillors around the table also spoke about taking a leadership role when it came to reducing climate change in the region.

Kāpiti Coast District Council, Wellington City Council, Porirua City Council, Hutt City Council, Environment Canterbury, Auckland Council, Bay of Plenty and Hawke's Bay regional councils have all declared climate emergencies.

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