Whanganui District Council declares Climate Emergency

Published on 12 February 2020

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Whanganui District Council has declared a Climate Emergency in response to global climate change.

Cr Alan Taylor, Chair of the Council’s Infrastructure Committee, brought the matter to a Council Meeting held on Tuesday, 11 February 2020.

Referring to the Council’s current development of a Climate Change Strategy, Cr Taylor said, “Last year we passed a motion acknowledging that a climate crisis was impending in order to generate engagement in our community.”

A discussion document was released to the public in 2019 as a basis for engagement on climate change with public and sector meetings held to enable feedback.  

Cr Taylor said, “This motion today is a statement of urgency which will place a further layer of seriousness over how we react and how fast we react. It is important in its intent because things are moving even faster than we understood seven months ago.”

He said the declaration would “line us up with other entities and territorial authorities around the globe that are sitting in the same plane of understanding of what this means for us”.

Cr Taylor said the first global declaration of a Climate Emergency was made in December 2018 and since then 25 countries, all 28 nation states of the European Parliament and more than 1250 local authorities have declared climate emergencies.

“If we in Whanganui are to honour our Leading Edge pledge, and if we don’t want to be part of a trailing wedge, we must be there as well.”

He said a declaration would go further than just “acknowledging climate change exists”.

“We have already noticed that climate change exists – we’re developing a strategy. It’s not a motion setting out the action steps – they will come in our strategy.

“Ever since this Council released its climate change discussion document last year we’ve been made aware of a range of science that has demonstrated massive changes in global climate. We must make this declaration and we must make it now,” Cr Taylor said.

Mayor Hamish McDouall said, “We cannot just drift along and do nothing at local government. We have to coin a Climate Change Strategy and deal with things like stormwater and emissions. We need to start conversations with the community and show leadership by declaring a Climate Emergency.”

He said, “The best time to plant a tree was yesterday. The second best time is today. The best time to spend money on climate change is today because it’ll be a hell of a lot more expensive in 10 years.”

In summary, Cr Taylor acknowledged input into the debate and called for “a vote for science”.

“Nature bats last and it takes no prisoners. Nature doesn’t make decisions on what it reads on Facebook or what it heard from Ted at the pub. It knows where it’s going. We’ve got to figure it out and do our best to manipulate it back to the line it was once tracking along,” Cr Taylor said.

After the motion was passed, Mayor McDouall thanked the members of the public who attended the meeting, particularly noting the children present.


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