DCC votes against backing risk appeal

Lee Vandervis
Lee Vandervis
The Dunedin City Council has ruled out throwing its weight behind the Wise Response Appeal, after councillors divided into camps over environmental concerns and fears of party political lobbying.

The council was asked, at last month's council public forum, to sign the appeal by Emeritus Prof Sir Alan Mark, on behalf of appeal organisers. The appeal urged the New Zealand Parliament to undertake an objective national assessment of the risks posed by climate change, economic instability and other potential threats to New Zealand's wellbeing.

However, councillors at Monday's full council meeting were split over the request, with some urging action while others feared it would open the council up to increased political lobbying by other groups.

Councillors eventually voted 7-5 against the council adding its name to the appeal, and instead decided only to ''note'' a staff report detailing the appeal.

However, council staff would be able to sign up to the appeal as individuals, alongside councillors - some of whom already had.

The decisions came despite arguments from councillors, including Cr David Benson-Pope, who said the appeal's request was ''conservative and reasonable'' and would align with a range of council activity areas.

''It's hard to look at the five themes of the appeal ... and not see direct alignment with pretty much everything we do,'' he said.

Deputy mayor Chris Staynes agreed, saying the potential risks the appeal wanted studied in more detail - those to business continuity, economic security, energy security, climate and ecological security and genuine wellbeing - were also issues for the council.

''If that is done by Government, it will undoubtedly help council,'' he said.

Others disagreed, including Cr Lee Vandervis, who said he was ''reasonably happy'' with the appeal's contents but worried the council's signature would encourage more political lobbying of the council by other groups.

''If we essentially pander to this new political lobbying ... I think that we are heading into dangerous territory.''

Councillors were divided over whether support for the appeal would move them into party political territory, with Cr Kate Wilson arguing the appeal was not political and sought only to look ''holistically'' at challenges.

''I honestly can't understand why understanding those risks, in a preferably non-political way, is difficult for ... everyone to want to do.''

However, Cr Andrew Noone said he took the ''complete opposite'' view, saying the appeal was ''clearly suggesting that the political party in control at the moment has got it wrong''.

The appeal has been endorsed by Labour, Green and New Zealand First MPs, but not members of the Government, and Cr Noone said he felt ''we are perhaps being used as a vehicle to strengthen the argument''.

Mayor Dave Cull denied it was a politically motivated appeal, saying it was not a statement of position but simply a request for an investigation.

The information that would flow from acting on the appeal could allay fears, or not, but if it was ignored ''then we don't know the answer''.

Mr Cull said the issues it sought to address were also of relevance to the council, but he resented the fact the Government was leaving issues of national importance to councils to consider.

Crs Benson-Pope, Aaron Hawkins, Staynes and Wilson and Mr Cull voted to sign the appeal, but were defeated by Crs John Bezett, Doug Hall, Noone, Andrew Whiley, Hilary Calvert, Mike Lord and Vandervis.

Councillors then voted to note the report, including Cr Staynes, who nevertheless said the decision was ''not ideal''.

''It's not ideal for people to recognise that there are risks and then choose to do nothing about it,'' he said.

- chris.morris@odt.co.nz

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