Climate change: Nelson council agrees in principle to collaborate with Denmark

10:19 am on 6 March 2020

Nelson City Council and iwi-owned Wakatu Incorporation have formalised a link with European experts on developing initiatives to tackle the consequences of climate change.

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A climate change strike in Nelson on 24 May, 2019. Photo: RNZ / Tracy Neal

They include the possible establishment of a southern hemisphere climatorium in Nelson - a forum for education and development of projects to address climate change.

In 2018, a delegation from Nelson went to Lemvig in Denmark to explore how others were tackling climate change adaptation.

A climatorium is currently under construction in Lemvig, and its purpose is to collect information about the climate and water. It will also serve as a shared space where companies, research institutions, educators and the general public can work on finding solutions to climate challenges.

The first stage of the Danish climatorium is scheduled to be completed in August this year.

The city council and Wakatū Incorporation hosted a return delegation from Denmark last November, to discuss how the different parties could work together on climate change initiatives.

During this visit, it was proposed that the parties sign a document that outlined their objectives in continuing to work together.

The city council was among the first local authorities in the country to declare a climate emergency last year, and said at the time it intended to do more than pay lip-service to it.

It agreed almost unanimously at a special meeting yesterday to set the terms of collaboration, which will pave the way for access to years of research the Danes have done on adapting to climate change.

Nineteen-year-old Rohan O'Neill-Stevens, who was elected on a platform for climate action and who was present last weekend for the launch of a new climate forum in Nelson, could not be happier.

"What a week for potential of climate action, following on from the launch of our climate forum, O'Neill-Stevens said.

"We're leading with a whole-of-community approach, which is so important to climate action."

He said the principles of the agreement highlighted that climate change challenges had no border, and the fight belonged to the international community.

"My hope for this is that we can develop a dynamic relationship, and a relationship that pushes us to do better."

Councillor Tim Skinner was the only opponent to signing the document. He questioned its merits beyond Nelson becoming "penpals with Denmark", or whether it might commit ratepayers to hefty costs in the future.

Skinner said not enough was known about what a climatorium might look like, whether or not it might attract government funding and whether it might cross into territory already covered by the likes of NIWA and Nelson's science research institute, the Cawthron.

Councillor Judene Edgar said it was a valuable opportunity to benefit from years of intellectual knowledge gathered by Danish authorities.

"It gives us the access to years of research and investigation that led to Denmark being able to establish their own climatorium."

A council staff report said Denmark consisted of mainly of flat lands with little elevation, apart from the hilly central area on the Jutland peninsula. The average height above sea level was 31m and the highest natural point was 170m.

Its lowest point was 7m below sea level, and nowhere in the country was further than 52km from the coast.

Senior council staff said the Principles of Collaboration, signed yesterday, did not commit the city to any spending and neither would it add to staff workloads.

Chief executive Pat Dougherty said any good ideas that might arise would be channelled through the normal long-term plan budgeting process.

A team from Denmark was due to arrive in Nelson next week, but the trip has been postponed due to the Covid-19 outbreak, which is affecting Denmark and New Zealand.

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