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Climate Change Declaration  

Despite earlier predictions of imminent change, our Mayor continues to stubbornly resist any attempt to have our Council sign the Local Government Leaders Climate Change Declaration.

Mayor Sandra sticks to her guns despite all the criticism that has been levelled on the matter that is fully explained in a paper that that she will present to Council on Tuesday 2 April.

Here is the content of the proposed Declaration, now signed by nearly 60 councils:

“We have come together, as a group of Mayors and Chairs representing local government from across New Zealand to:

  1.  acknowledge the importance and urgent need to address climate change for the benefit of current and future generations;
  2.  give our support to the New Zealand Government for developing and implementing, in collaboration with councils, communities and businesses, an ambitious transition plan toward a low carbon and resilient New Zealand;
  3.  encourage Government to be more ambitious with climate change mitigation measures;
  4.  outline key commitments our councils will take in responding to the opportunities and risks posed by climate change; and                                                                                                                           5. recommend important guiding principles for responding to climate change.”

Here is the response of our Mayor in coming to her recommendation that Council not sign the Declaration.

"In my view the Declaration is a potentially binding document as it commits the Council to developing and implementing ‘ambitious plan’. The term ‘commit’ means ‘to pledge to a cause or a course of action’. Council’s reputation, and that of individual elected members, is at risk if we do not uphold all the initiatives promoted by future governments. Without a legal opinion there is no way to prove there is no commitment and obtaining a legal opinion is an unnecessary expense in this instance given we are clearly working in accord with the objective of the declaration. A paper by Jack Hodder QC presented at the recent Rural and Provincial Sector meeting in Wellington noted that there has been many climate change litigation cases around the world and recent New Zealand negligent cases (asbestosis and kiwifruit pollen (still underway)) give credence to the possibility of legal challenge.

The initiatives described in the declaration and Local Government have not yet been canvassed and therefore have unknown financial consequences. In fulfilling our fiduciary responsibilities the Council has to follow the decision-making provisions of the Local Government Act 2002. These provisions include:

  • Identifying all reasonably practicable options;
  • Assessing the advantages and disadvantages of different options;
  • Taking into account Maori culture and traditions if it is a significant decision regarding land and water
  • Considering the appropriate level of engagement with our communities based on significance of each decision."

The actual recommendation is couched in the following manner:

That the Council:

  1. Receives the ‘Local Government Leaders’ Climate Change Declaration’ report, dated 19 March 2019.
  2. Continues to take action, following robust decision-making processes, in response to climate change for our communities.

Disappointing, but anyone who knows our Mayor, and the manner in which she operates will hardly be surprised. The highlighted use of the word commit - one that appears nowhere in the document, and one which LGNZ Chair Steve Cull denies, together with the references to the LGA are indeed an irrelevant ‘red-herring’ when seen in the light of the negating of any commitment.  

It remains up to Council to either accept, or amend the recommendation on Tuesday in order to adopt the Declaration. At this point, I can see only three West Coast members supporting such a reversal, and I suspect that Mayor Sandra has already clalled a Workshop in order to canvass, and tie down the East Coast support. The motion is right at the end of the Order Paper, to ensure minimal local public presence.

Our Council will likely continue to be derided for its backward and ignorant stance on a critically important issue.


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