Mayor: too soon to ask for climate funds

The Government will be approached for funding to help Dunedin adapt to climate change "when the time is right", the city’s mayor says.

A draft programme of work for the next three years could be presented to both the Dunedin City Council and the Otago Regional Council at the end of this month, Dunedin Mayor Aaron Hawkins said.

"We will absolutely be talking to central government about climate change adaptation projects, but it would be premature to do that before we’ve decided which options to pursue and when," Mr Hawkins said.

His comments came after Taieri MP Ingrid Leary expressed frustration about the city council not engaging with the Government to design an ambitious response to climate challenges in South Dunedin, which include the threat of storms and sea-level rise.

Mr Hawkins said there was "no shortage of suggestions" and council staff had worked with the community to develop a coastal plan.

Work on a wider adaptation plan for South Dunedin was also ongoing.

That would take some time, given the scale of investment required, Mr Hawkins said.

"When the time is right, we will also approach central government to discuss financial support and other forms of assistance in more detail, but we also have to be prepared to share the burden of this critical work ourselves.

"In the meantime, we continue to keep councillors, our community and local MPs briefed on developments."

Ms Leary said she looked forward to seeing the draft programme.

"I’m optimistic that it will align with the high expectations of the community that local and central government will work together on the key issue of our time," she said.

Ms Leary said she believed it was better to "co-create solutions through conversations with partners, rather than go to them with options".

Dunedin had a chance to be an exemplar in climate-responsive urban development, she said, after legislation designed to encourage affordable housing was passed in 2020.

Political will to collaborate remained strong, Ms Leary said.

"Dunedin remains the worst-threatened area nationally by the risk of coastal storm surge, surface rainwater runoff and rising groundwater driven by global climate change."

She had suggested several times that the council request ministerial meetings alongside meetings between local and government officials, she said.

Cr Carmen Houlahan said Ms Leary’s eagerness to tee up such meetings was a surprise, as she did not remember it coming up in mayoral briefings.

Cr Houlahan felt that was due to a communication blockage involving Mr Hawkins.

"We all want Government to fund South Dunedin work," Cr Houlahan said last week.

"Why aren’t we contacting ministers and making it happen?

"We should be seizing this opportunity with open arms."

Cr Houlahan is one councillor set to run against Mr Hawkins for the mayoralty this year.



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