Council Under Increasing Pressure on Climate Change
Saturday, January 5, 2019 at 12:43PM
Bill Barclay

Read this article from Stuff  yesterday by Charlie Mitchell to see just how isolated our Council has become in relation to its climate change and rising sea level response.

This is one of the best summary's of the situation (including excellent photographs) as it applies directly to this District  that you will read, and it points directly to the attempts being made by our Council to 'control the message.'

Interestingly, it fails to nail our Mayor as the instigator - but it does point the finger at our CEO - Rob Williams in the following passage:

"There are lingering questions about the new pool project, too. After deciding to pursue a facility at the site by the airfield, the council told its regional counterpart, the Waikato Regional Council, what it was thinking. Through a no surprises policy, staff from both councils drafted the regional council's response, which would effectively support the district council's plans.

The emails, obtained by Stuff, include a telling exchange: A draft of the letter was edited to remove references to climate change, at the behest of the district council.

One management-level district council staffer, responding to a draft version of the letter, wrote: "I don't think [name redacted] will like the reference to 'climate change strategy'," they wrote.

"Is there a term 'we' would prefer they use?" 

"The name, redacted by the district council but released on request by the regional council, was "Rob" - presumably the district council's chief executive, Rob Williams, the intended recipient of the letter. (The council, in a statement, confirmed it was referring to Williams).

There was further discussion about requested changes, before the letter was finalised and sent, largely untouched from its draft version except in two significant ways: The reference to "climate change strategy" was removed, as requested, and replaced with the term "adaptation strategy"; and a second reference to "climate change" risk was removed and replaced with "inundation" risk. A third reference to "impacts of projected climate change" remained in the final version.

The council says the references to "climate change" were removed because the term was too broad, and encompassed issues like mitigation and increased bush fire risk, alongside sea level rise.

"We preferred to be specific in our correspondence with Waikato Regional Council and so deleted the references to climate change in preference of more specific terminology about the issues at hand," a spokeswoman said."

The real (and generally unspoken) dilemma as outlined by Mitchell is based on the relative social dynamics splitting the District - the 'elphant in the room' ever since 2009 when the cost of the $100m Eastern Seaboard wastewater scheme was applied equally across the District at the insistence of the then Eastern majority on the Council.

The utter inequity of this policy change encapsulated as the "three waters policy," was enacted through a divisive and classical piece of political chicanery by the then CEO Steve Ruru, and Mayor Phillippa Barriball, and is now being repeated as reported in this article to the decided advantage of the relatively wealthy Eastern half of the District.

Mitchell has nailed this discrepancy perfectly in his article highlighting the differences created by the differeing demands of erosion and inundation on the eastern side, threatening multi-million dollar real estate, and the storm/tide damage on the western side affecting property representing a fraction of the value.

The claims on Council resources from the Eastern side are already mounting, and the potential danger from storm/tsunami events to recently approved development of the Whitianga Town Centre, and the outrageous Hopper Marina development are building a potential avalanche of claims against our Council. Likewise the Richmond Village development in Thames.

Meanwhile, tiny but effective self-help undertakings are underway on the western side to deal with their problems - at Tararu in particular, and in the absence of any Council action or even recognition of any responsibility - and that represents the very words of our Mayor. Paradoxically, the powerful Eastern elite appear relatively successful in pleading their case for Council action.

The article is a first rate, and worthy of being circulated to every resident of this District, remembering that everyone occupying property above the line of any possibility of inundation is likely to be highly resistant to rates being used for the purpose of rescuing those owning at-risk property, regardless of  which coast.

What remains a fact is that power on both Councils (TCDC and WRC) remains firmly in the hands a a relatively wealthy elderly elite - unlikely to change anytime soon. On the other hand, and in relation to the swimming pool issue, rejection of the necessary resource consent appears most likely regardless of the views of the Councils.

Like it, or lump it, Denis Tegg's analysis of the planning law relating to 'avoid' meaning 'not allow,' where sea-level rise is predicted to inundate property (including swimming pools!) within the foreseeable future appears well founded, and an impossible hurdle for our overly optimistic Council to climb over. Its stated reliance on bunds simply does not constitute a sustainable argument when it appears determined to spend $20m of our rates - one an independent commissioner would be very unwise to countenance.




Article originally appeared on BillBarcBlog (
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