Lively debate as Southland climate strategy moves closer

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 Windfarm in Bluff, where eight turbines provide enough power for around 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, Southland District Council endorsed Environment Southland (the regional council) 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 to underpin a response.

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Most elected members agreed action needed to be taken.

Councillor Paul Duffy said if the four councils in the region couldn’t work together to create rational outcomes in the climate change space, then he didn’t 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,” Duffy said.

Councillor Christine Menzies said she was disappointed it had taken 18 months to get to the current stage following initial meetings, while Councillor Tom O’Brien said the council would be “left behind” if it didn’t 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.

Councillor Matt Wilson spoke about the council’s role in overseeing Stewart Island’s electricity supply — which relies on diesel-burning generators — while 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 councilors 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, 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 Invercargill City Council, Environment Southland and Gore District Council for consideration at individual meetings across January and February.

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