Southern mayors not sold on climate-change agency

Dave Cull.
Dave Cull.
Southern mayors appear far from united over the merits of a new centralised agency to help local authorities prepare for the impacts of climate change.

The need for a local government risk agency, funded by central government, was raised again by Local Government New Zealand president Dave Cull, Dunedin's mayor, on Monday.

His comments came as the Otago Daily Times reported the cost of the clean-up from last year's July storm in coastal Otago and Canterbury had more than doubled, to $55 million.

Mr Cull said the storm was the kind of event predicted to become more common with climate change and many councils lacked the resources to prepare for that eventuality.

That underscored the need for LGNZ's proposed new agency, which had been suggested to the previous National-led government but was now being raised again, he said.

However, other southern mayors contacted yesterday were more circumspect.

Jim Boult
Jim Boult

Queenstown Lakes Mayor Jim Boult said he ''would be open-minded to a discussion'', but the concept raised issues of equality with other districts.

He also worried about cutting across ''districts' responsibility to ensure their own assets are adequately protected''.

''We are probably as prepared as any other district is, but it's a work in progress.''

Clutha Mayor Bryan Cadogan was also ''open to the discussion'', but not necessarily the outcome suggested by LGNZ.

Bryan Cadogan
Bryan Cadogan

His council was in an ''enormously strong financial position'' and capable of covering the cost of adapting to climate change, such as by self-insuring underground infrastructure assets, he said.

Others councils were in a less enviable position, and it was a discussion that needed to be had at a national level.

''We're comfortable with that ... We know that responsibly we've always got to be open for discussion and reanalysing it.

''If this is part of it, we're in, but we'll be in for the wider issue, not because of this urban legend that the small councils are financial basket cases,'' Mr Cadogan said.

Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher was against the concept, saying it was up to each council to assess risks and guard local assets.

''Our risks as coastal districts are very different to Central Otago . . . There's a lot of decisions in there that should be up to each district.

Gary Kircher
Gary Kircher

''We've got people elected to represent the people in those areas, and this is about local decision-making and not losing that to some central body.''

Central Otago Mayor Tim Cadogan could not be contacted.

An LGNZ spokesman said the proposal would help councils understand and mitigate the impact of events like last year's storms, by pooling and co-ordinating local government resources.

Councils across New Zealand were together responsible for assets valued at $103.7 billion, which were critical to economic and community wellbeing.

The proposal was supported by a business case which envisaged an agency fully-funded by central government, he said.

Climate Change Minister James Shaw said an LGNZ briefing was expected ''shortly'', following by further discussions, including on who should pay for the agency.

He was ''acutely aware'' of local authorities' concerns about the need for good risk analysis and to spread costs of climate change beyond any one sector.

The Government was committed to providing ''strong, clear leadership'' on the issue, he said.

Comments

Well Cull is the Local Government New Zealand president please please leave it with the Central Government and not him. 'Cull said the storm was the kind of event predicted to become more common with climate change and many councils lacked the resources to prepare for that eventuality.' What has He done about Dunedin Drains? (I say Cull as IMO he is the figurehead of the DCC and the buck stops with him). Preventative maintenance ahh no, not really, Sammies purchase, the $120,000 for the two 3D painted crossings that are not NZTA, then you have the $100,000 for the re work for a drain that was to small.these would have all helped with Dunedin's Preventative maintenance, maybe start investing rate payers money in the industries they said no too. just like the Big Brother tv Show phrase It's time to Go.............................Cull.

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