No need to declare climate emergency

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As the school holidays begin for children throughout South Canterbury and the Waitaki, it reminds me of how much we have on offer for families throughout the region.

Whether it’s a ski trip for some at Ohau or Round Hill, cycling or walking part of the Alps to Ocean trail, heading to the improved digital movie theatre in Waimate or working at home on the farm, the options for adventure are plentiful, and I truly believe ours are some of the luckiest children in the country.

We must never take these opportunities or the environment we live in for granted, and should take every chance we can to learn more about ways to sustain and protect it, while still having the freedom to grow and develop and not be held back by red tape or emotive headlines.

Recently there has been an alarming trend by some councils throughout the country to declare a climate emergency – meaning they will be committed to incorporating climate change considerations into their decisions.

I urge people to stand back for a minute and ask just what this will achieve. Is it not simply more emotive rhetoric? A powerfully symbolic, yet empty gesture?

It could stir up panic instead of encouraging common sense and giving people a direction or vision for much-needed lifestyle changes.

I believe most councils morally should have already been taking this factor, the protection of our environment, into consideration throughout their decision-making. The declaration adds nothing, no fiscal or legal responsibility, so I remain rather sceptical about its purpose, as do most of our local councils throughout the district which have declined to declare an emergency, each insisting on action instead of grand gestures.

I believe it’s like charity; it all begins at home.

We need to stay true to these values we speak of and alter the way we live.

I admit I am in no way perfect – my job, for instance, requires a lot of travel between here and Wellington – but I do continue to try to make changes every day.

I come from an era of thrift so reducing waste comes naturally to me. As often as possible I say no to packaging and instead recycle – but as always there is so much more we can do.

While I support any genuine attempts to improve our environment and to respond to climate change – and who wouldn’t? – I just feel action and changing perspectives at home can be more powerful than simply jumping on a bandwagon.

Last week, farmers received an apology from MPI over their shoddy Mycoplasma boviseradication programme.

While it’s a good start, the report findings were nothing new to farmers who have been put through the wringer throughout the past two years.

Farmers throughout South Canterbury, the Waitaki and the rest of New Zealand have suffered and are continuing to suffer as a result of the Mycoplasma bovis cattle disease and the Government’s decision to try to eradicate it through culling all infected herds.

This dreaded disease was first discovered here in the Waitaki and I have seen and heard first-hand stories of the clumsy, careless and sometimes arrogant dealings local farmers have had with MPI staff throughout the eradication process.

While it was a relief for farmers to hear MPI admit what they already know – that there are major failings in the eradication programme – it will mean nothing if changes aren’t made immediately.

The National Party and the country’s farming bodies have so far supported the Government’s move to try to eradicate this disease. However, with knowledge now that the culling will continue over the next 10 years, we need to be sure they take into account the human cost of the disease.

In some cases, people have lost their herds, their businesses, their livelihoods, and to see a report now admitting failings in the way MPI has carried out the programme will be bittersweet for some.

I understand and commend the many MPI staff who have gone to great lengths to keep the process moving for affected farmers, but at the same time just hope that further up the chain systems will be improved to ensure decisions are made promptly and the right people are in the roles required. – Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean