Climate reform worries mayors

West Coast mayors are compiling a hard-hitting report on the number of jobs in the region that would be put in jeopardy by climate change reform — including the possibility of losing the Tranz Alpine scenic rail service.

Dairy farmers might have to destock, coalmines would close, gas would be unavailable, and coal fires would stop burning, if the Government accepted the recommendations of the first Climate Change Commission report it commissioned.

Submissions close on March 14, and Greymouth Mayor Tania Gibson, Westland Mayor Bruce Smith and West Coast Regional Council chairman Allan Birchfield have met to plan their response.

All three said the more they thought about it, they more businesses they realised would be affected.

"It goes on forever," Cr Birchfield said.

He said the Tranz Alpine passenger line could go, because without Stockton coal, the rail line to Christchurch would be uneconomic.

"We can’t do without coal. It’s essential to our economy," Cr Birchfield said.

Mrs Gibson said glacier business were already going under because of Covid, and now other West Coast businesses could be "purposefully closed" to meet the climate change targets.

Some were viable business, others intergenerational, and would not be able to be sold.

The Coast had been told that displaced staff could retrain, but retrain as what, she asked.

"There’s no golden answer [as to what] the next industry is."

Mrs Gibson said the mayors now had less than six weeks’ time to work out just how many people, businesses and sectors would be hit, before lodging their submission.

"We can’t fight without proper information. We need to do things quickly, no-one has much time [to submit]."

Mr Smith said the Coast was currently seeing exactly what happened when an industry collapsed, at Franz Josef and Fox glaciers, with far-reaching ramifications — fewer children in schools, a fire brigade struggling to crew, shops selling less, and staff layoffs.

He said the recommended climate rules could have a massive impact on "the West Coast as we know it". — Greymouth Star


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