Climate plan in next stage but disagreement remains

Southland councils are working alongside an iwi liaison group on a proposed strategy to address...
Southland councils are working alongside an iwi liaison group on a proposed strategy to address climate change in the region. This picture was taken at Flat Hill Wind Farm in Bluff, where eight turbines provide enough power for about 2600 homes. PHOTO: STEPHEN JAQUIERY
A first-of-its-kind Southland strategy to unite forces against climate change is one step closer to going out for consultation.

But one of the councils involved in the plan has begun the year with a lively debate on the topic, where not everyone was on the same page.

On Wednesday, the Southland District Council endorsed regional council Environment Southland to undertake a public consultation on a proposed climate change strategy for the region.

The non-regulatory plan has been developed over several months by the Regional Climate Change Working Group, which comprises iwi liaison entity Te Ao Mārama Inc and four Southland councils.

According to a report prepared for district councillors this week, the strategy planned to "support improved regional collaboration on climate issues" with aspirations of using science and mātauranga (Maori knowledge) to underpin a response.

Most elected members agreed action needed to be taken.

Cr Paul Duffy said if the four councils in the region could not work together to create rational outcomes in the climate change space, then he did not hold much hope they would succeed in much else.

"If we don’t take some leadership in this, we’re certainly going to put huge costs on our communities, if we don’t do something," Cr Duffy said.

Cr Christine Menzies said she was disappointed it had taken 18 months to get to the current stage following initial meetings, while Cr Tom O’Brien said the council would be "left behind" if it did not adopt the science.

Issues facing the organisation in its efforts to mitigate against climate change were also highlighted during the debate which lasted more than an hour.

Cr Matt Wilson spoke about the council’s role in overseeing Stewart Island’s electricity supply — which relies on diesel-burning generators — while Cr Margie Ruddenklau raised concerns about the landfill in Winton receiving rubbish from "all over the South Island" under a long-standing consent issued by the council.

Two councillors voted against adopting the strategy — Jaspreet Boparai and Don Byars — with the latter saying there were "question marks" over the data, and concerns about what was being put forward for consultation.

"This strategy doesn’t have any plan of action.

"We don’t have any idea what’s being proposed ... we can’t make any judgement about the economic cost to our community," he said.

Meanwhile, Cr Boparai did not believe humans played a significant role in climate change.

There is a scientific consensus that humans are altering the climate.

The proposed strategy is also being put to the Invercargill City Council, Environment Southland and the Gore District Council for consideration at individual meetings this month and next.

Feedback from the consultation period would be reported back to the working group around May. — LDR is local body journalism co-funded by RNZ and NZ On Air