by Greta Yeoman
None of South Canterbury’s three district councils have signed up to the Local Government New Zealand Climate Declaration – despite 55 other councils backing the declaration.
The 2017 declaration – which asked councils to promote walking and public transport, improve resource efficiency and healthy homes and support renewable energy and electric vehicles – has been back in the news recently due to claims it is “highly” political.
Last week, Thames-Coromandel Mayor Sandra Goudie told RNZ she did not want to sign the declaration because it was “incredibly highly politically charged and driven”.
When The Courier contacted the mayors of the Waimate, Timaru and Mackenzie district councils for their reasons for not signing the declaration, Mackenzie Mayor Graham Smith said as mayor he had supported Local Government NZ in its efforts to “understand the effects of climate change”.
He said the council had “never refused” to sign the declaration and it was already acknowledging climate change through its 2018-28 long-term plan.
The council was also “very supportive” of Environment Canterbury’s regional policy on climate change through the Canterbury Mayoral Forum, Mr Smith said.
Environment Canterbury had signed the declaration.
Waimate Mayor Craig Rowley said council “may consider” signing the declaration, but regardless of if and when it did, it was already “acutely aware” of climate change.
“[We] take this into account when designing, installing or renewing key infrastructure (particularly storm water and road drainage assets) as these will be the most impacted from climate change.”
He said climate change and the associated higher-intensity rainfall events would “undoubtedly” lead to more surface flooding, so that was being addressed through “programmed renewals” and the council’s 30-year infrastructure strategy.
“We believe the measures we are taking address the challenges of climate change and are helping protect our community, including those that live near the coast.”
Timaru Mayor Damon Odey said as a costal district, Timaru was “already seeing the effects of climate change” and mentioned “there’s no question” that man-made climate change was a “real issue”.
“[It is] a real issue that every single one of us has to play a part in mitigating.”
However, the LGNZ declaration was a “another vague statement”, Mr Odey said.
“Statements like this may read well from a political point of view, and make people feel they are doing their bit, but they are light on detail and don’t really offer much of any substance to our communities.”
He said one of the main benefits of local government was being able to provide solutions at a local level.
“Our communities want to see more tangible and real ways of tackling the issue at a local level, rather than another vague statement.”