City councillor to attend conferences

When local government representatives from around the world take part in the world's biggest conference on sustainable development next week, Dunedin will be represented.

Cr Jinty MacTavish (27) will leave for Brazil today to attend the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives - Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI) world congress after which she will attend Rio+20, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, as an ICLEI "future city leader".

ICLEI is an international association of local governments and national and regional local government organisations, including the Dunedin City Council, that have made a commitment to sustainable development.

Cr MacTavish has been involved with the association for about four months as part of 10-person trial future city leaders programme.

At the congress, she will participate in programmes dealing with youth engagement in local government and integrated solutions for sustainable development, but before that she will attend an ICLEI Urban Nature conference focusing on urban biodiversity and food security.

At that, she will present a Dunedin perspective on ecological infrastructure for urban development, including discussion on tussock's role in the city's water supply.

Following the congress she will attend Rio+20, mainly as part of ICLEI's "Global Town Hall", the main forum at Rio+20 to discuss the sustainable urban future and agree on solutions for the future.

After that she will take a few weeks' holiday in wider South America.

Cr MacTavish said she had been to a UN sustainable development conference previously but, ironically, had come away disillusioned as she did not feel the outcomes were actually going to translate into any tangible action.

This time, she was positive the conference was headed in the right direction, with the UN already having indicated it was seeking practical, defined action plan-type outcomes.

"I see the potential for this conference to be the one where we all step back from the work we do on such focused outcomes and say, how is poverty related to environmental degradation and cultural disenfranchisement, and what solutions can we use to address a whole suite of issues."

That was a preferable way of trying to find solutions rather than focusing on one area, for example global warming, when it should be treated as a symptom of wider problems.

She was looking forward to being part of the Rio+20 "pressure cooker", she said.

"It's getting down to the nitty gritty. It will be intense."

Cr MacTavish said she had financed her trip and involvement with all of the conferences herself.


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