22 Sep 2020

Plan to flip carbon footprint requires govt funding, council says

5:07 pm on 22 September 2020

It will cost $540 million to transform Greater Wellington Regional Council into a carbon positive organisation.

Wetlands at Queen Elizabeth Park

Wetlands at Queen Elizabeth Park. Photo: Supplied / Russell Bell

It's been just over a year since the council declared a climate and ecological emergency; pledged to become carbon neutral by 2030; and carbon positive by 2035.

'Carbon positive' means as an organisation, and the land they own, they absorb more carbon than they emit.

Currently, the council, which manages public transport and parks, is one of the biggest carbon culprits, responsible for about 1 percent of the region's total emissions.

In a meeting this morning, the climate committee approved a plan which would see them dramatically flip their carbon footprint.

It would see $160m spent on electrifying the entire region's bus fleet; $346m on decarbonising the railways; and $34.8m on ending grazing on regional parks.

"To become climate positive by 2035, which is what we've said we want to do," said chair of the climate committee, Thomas Nash, "we need to be at the maximum scenario on all three of those levers: on our bus fleet, on our rail fleet, and at our parks."

However, some of the council's organisations, such as Centreport and Wellington Water, are not included in the modelling.

The pathway will now be put forward as an option on the council's Long Term Plan, and be subject to consultation.

If it is to become a reality, Nash said there would have to be a significant step up in funding.

"I would say that the number of priorities that are mounting up on regional councils - around biodiversity, around freshwater, around climate action - it is intimidating to think about, and we're going to need a significant step-up in funding from central government to meet these new legislative and regulatory requirements.

"We agree with the government [these] are very important, but [they] are going to need significant resourcing from central government as well.

"We feel very encouraged we've got a pathway down on paper that can get us to the point of being carbon positive as an organisation by 2035."

Funding for restoring parks also agreed

At the meeting, the council also approved just under $1.8m as part of their Low Carbon Acceleration Fund.

Of that, $1.4m will be spent restoring 128.5 hectares of peatland and dune forest at Queen Elizabeth Park (QEP), while a further $370,000 will restore 21 hectares of pasture land at Kaitoke Regional Park.

The projects will commence next month, providing ratification by council.

It will build on existing work done at QEP by Kāpiti locals Chris and Sam Maclean who, through the Maclean Trust, have already transformed 25 hectares of the park into duneland forest and wetland.

"We strongly support Greater Wellington's further investment in wetland and dune forest restoration," said Chris Maclean.

"The climate and ecological gains are there to be made as grazing is phased out and replaced by a more environmentally enlightened approach to the restoration of QEP and the region's other parks. We hope there will be more investment to come in a strategy that can only benefit the region."

Climate committee chair Thomas Nash said it would be one of the largest wetland enhancement projects undertaken in New Zealand.

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