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Hauraki District Council will take urgent action on climate change.

The Extinction Rebellion Waihi Group asked Council at a recent Community Services and Development Committee to declare a climate change emergency for the Hauraki District and establish a citizen’s assembly.

The committee requested staff report back to council so it could make a decision.

In the 31 July, 2019, meeting, Council resolved to recognise the urgency of addressing climate change to support a greater mobilisation of resources and accelerate the climate change programme that Council had already committed to through its 2018 Long Term Planning process.

Hauraki district Mayor John Tregidga said the word ‘urgency’ best described the approach council needed to take, rather than declaring an emergency.

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Climate change challenge

“We agree climate change is one of the biggest challenges facing the international community and New Zealand, but actions speak louder than words,” he said.

“We will work with the Extinction Rebellion Waihi Group and the community to identify some achievable goals and actions that will make a difference.

“We’re also looking at what we can do as a business to take the lead on climate change action.We’re planning an internal review of our operations in relation to emission reduction and sustainability and we’ll be identifying steps we can take to reduce emissions and likely costs.”

Community involvement

Declaring a climate change emergency was an issue that needed to be discussed in the next Long Term Plan in consultation with the community, he said.

“We have not got the mandate from the community to do this. I don’t think it would be fair to the community to go and declare a climate change emergency and not be able to do it.”

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Climate change funding

Council’s ability to take action was also affected by available funding, Mayor Tregidga said.

“We have a small population. If Auckland Council asked for $1 from each ratepayer and resident to put towards climate change action, they would raise about $1.6 million. In the Hauraki District, we would raise about $20,000.”

Addressing climate change

There were many things council was already doing to address the long term challenges of climate change, he said.

“Hauraki District Council is doing a lot now, particularly when you look at what we’re doing in Kaiaua,” he said.

“We’re working with Waikato regional and district councils, iwi, technical experts and affected Kaiaua Coast communities on a jointly developed and community-led strategy that will describe how we will respond to coastal hazard risks in the future.

“We’re doing stuff that no other council is doing in the Waikato, we’re taking the lead.”

Council initiatives

Council also signed the Local Government Leaders’ Climate Change Declaration, had a plan in place to address climate change impacts and was involved in many local and national climate change initiatives including work with NIWA, GNS Science, multiple universities and the Future Living Skills initiative.

Council welcomes the introduction of the Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Bill as a necessary step towards meeting its international obligations to reduce greenhouse gases.

The Bill requires the Government to plan for how it will support Kiwi towns, cities, businesses, farmers and iwi to respond and adapt to the effects of climate change.