Green Party leader and Climate Change Minister James Shaw says a climate forum launched in Nelson today is an example of material steps being taken to address its impacts.
Shaw was in the region to launch the Nelson-Tasman Climate Forum, designed to unite local and central government leaders with local climate activists and help guide a community-led plan to tackle climate change.
Its charter outlines goals for members to work with urgency, to rapidly reduce human contribution to global warming and to protect communities against its adverse impacts.
The forum was established with help from a $30,000 grant from the Nelson City Council, after it was among the first local authorities to declare a climate emergency last year. It would be a starting point for the creation of a draft regional climate strategy aimed at identifying a vision and priorities for action.
Mayor Rachel Reese said the council was determined that declaring a climate emergency would be more than symbolic.
"Declaring a climate emergency was just the start, now it needs to be backed by action. We've put a $500,000 reserve fund aside for climate change initiatives and collaboration with the community is vitally important."
The forum also has the support of neighbouring Tasman District Council, which chose not to declare a climate emergency, but has instead taken steps to address some of the more immediate impacts, such as responding to sea level rise.
Tasman Mayor Tim King said that in making the decision to sign the charter, the council saw a regional response as important for the successful achievement of the forum's outcomes.
Shaw said responses to climate change were now being seen around the country, especially in areas most vulnerable to its impacts.
"They're significant, grass-roots efforts and they're all quite different but this one in Nelson is the first one of its kind, even though there is plenty happening around the country."
He agreed it was an example of councils putting their money where their mouths are, even though the Nelson and Tasman councils have chosen to respond differently.
"There are a number of councils that have declared a climate emergency on paper, but haven't quite got around to planning what it looks like in practise, while there are others which for their own reasons haven't used that language but are doing some really good work on the ground."
Shaw said what was happening in Nelson-Tasman was a marriage of this.
"I have to say the region has been a leader - is a leader when it comes to local authorities taking the lead on climate change."
Forum co-chair Julie Nevin hoped it would be an example to others communities on how to respond to climate change.
Zero Carbon Nelson Tasman member Jenny Easton said the forum and charter was designed by a diverse working group over the past few months.
"The invitation to join is still open - and will always be open - and everyone is welcome."
The Nelson and Tasman mayors joined Shaw for the forum's launch.
Forum members will then meet monthly to enact and refine the strategy.