Council climate response embarrasses

Kevin Hague
Kevin Hague
Revelations the West Coast Regional Council wants to see more scientific evidence to prove that human-driven climate change is real, were causing embarrassment on the West Coast yesterday.

The council does not support the Government's Zero Carbon Bill.

Several councillors have said for years they do not believe in climate change, as reported previously in the Greymouth Star.

In its submission, the council said if West Coasters were to commit to emissions targets, ''the evidence proving anthropogenic climate change must be presented and proven beyond reasonable doubt''.

It caused a stir nationally - and embarrassment locally. West Coast Regional Council chairman Andrew Robb did not return calls yesterday.

However, Forest and Bird chief executive Kevin Hague, who lives just out of Greymouth, said his immediate response was ''pretty much a face-palm [to the head]''.

''I would say the predominant response is disbelief and shock (and some pointing to the particular demographic and occupational profile of our council!),'' Mr Hague said, referring to the fact two of the councillors, Alan Birchfield and Neal Clementson, are involved in coalmining.

Some kind of circuit-breaker in the council was necessary, he said.

''New Zealand in general has been slow to understand the implications of climate change and to take action, and our region [the West Coast] has been slower still.''

''And also - follow the money - we have a history of businesses and jobs that are based in coalmining, so accepting the need to change has a direct negative consequence.''

Confronted with those dynamics, the Government had ''dismissed us as rednecks, hardening attitudes, or indulged this mindset for political purposes, giving signals that any changes will be minimal and slow.''

Regional council planning, science and innovation manager Hadley Mills said there was too much uncertainty about the economic and social impact from the Zero Carbon Bill.

A lot more work needed to be done so they could understand how jobs and communities would be affected, he said.

The council was not denying climate change but struggled to understand it, Mr Mills said.

''We must be objective and base our decisions on science and that's why we want the science presented really simply; we don't have climate change experts on our staff so we just want everyone to understand it.''

The council's stance did not impress Hector resident Penny Madden, who said in her 20 years in Northern Buller the sea had changed dramatically.

Three cyclones in the past five years had damaged neighbouring houses.

''I mean, it's lapping right at my seawall at high tide now and that's really close,'' Ms Madden said.

The submission went through a West Coast Regional Council meeting and was signed off by councillors.

RNZ attempted to contact all seven representatives. Cr Stuart Challenger, of Hokitika, said he was the sole councillor opposing the submission and that the council needed to start acting on climate change.

Cr Birchfield said the Bill and climate change was a fraud and it would end up costing locals.

-Additionally reported by Kate Gudsell



I suggest Cllr. Birchfield takes a look out of his cave window at some stage.

For everyone's sake, if these people cannot educate themselves, get a team from University of Otago to take them through the evidence. And yes not always ignoring the fact that money might not flow as easily into the region if coal and unwise dairying have to be curtailed. Why elect such people when the long term future depends on actions now, late as they will be.