It has been nine months since the Bay of Plenty Regional Council received a standing ovation for declaring a climate emergency, but what has it done about it? Kiri Gillespie reports. Nine months after Bay of Plenty Regional Council declared a climate emergency, one of its senior elected members says she wishes the council would move faster and involve more people in its response.
However, the regional council insists change is coming.
Elected members voted to formulate the council's first Climate Change Action Plan - declaring a climate emergency in June . The move was greeted with a standing ovation.
It reflected an international movement to heighten greater awareness and action to combat the human impact on global warming.
Council deputy chairwoman Jane Neesvoted for the declaration last year, saying climate change was the most important issue the council had dealt with. Yet, nine months later, there was still frustration with the pace of the council's response.
"One of my ongoing frustrations is that local government processes tend to be slow, and while the regional council is taking climate change very seriously and has been working hard in getting its Climate Change Action Plan in place and implemented, much of its focus has been on getting our own house in order and not working directly with our community on the issue," Nees said.
She said while she accepted building blocks needed to be put in place, "I wish we were moving faster and involving more people".
"I am very keen for regional emission targets to be set and this needs public debate and acceptance."
Nees said the council needed to be doing more to engage with the community on the issues, implications and potential actions to limit the negative impacts of climate change.
"I feel very strongly that we all need to make adjustments to the way we live if we are to limit these negative impacts. The key to this is to help people understand what small changes that they can make in their lives which will collectively make a huge difference in addressing climate change impacts."
General manager of strategy and science Namouta Poutasi said the declaration recognised "the need to go beyond business-as-usual and start thinking and acting differently".
"This a journey that we've just begun, but it has certainly got the ball rolling on dialogue both internally amongst staff and councillors, as well as externally with our project partners and the wider community."
Poutasi said the regional council's focus so far was to put the right information, resources and programmes in place to help lead by example and support future local climate change response efforts.
"We have also set ourselves a target of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050," she said.
Poutasi said the council was focussing on its emissions baseline through the Toitū Carbon reduce accreditation system (formerly CEMARS) "so that we can identify where we most need to improve and measure reductions overtime"; completing building refurbishments in Tauranga, Whakatāne and Rotorua, which include the use of new methods and technologies to reduce waste and improve energy efficiency; and updating information about the likely impacts of climate change on the region.
Poutasi said most of the actions in the plan remained "works in progress that were under way but not yet completed". However, the council would be in a better position to report on progress at the end of this financial year.
In addition to its action plan efforts, the council has so far replaced five of its public buses and four fleet cars with electric versions and worked on a bulk purchase deal for staff to buy e-bikes.
Sustainable Business Network's Glen Crowther said while it was great the council was working on in-house efforts, he hoped it did not lose focus on the bigger picture.
"Some of us will be looking very closely at the annual plan when it goes out for consultation in a few weeks. We will be hoping for a significant response that's acknowledging they declared a climate emergency."
Crowther said the council had real opportunity to deliver "a real shift", particularly in areas it had a direct influence on such as public transport.
"I hope it's taken into a significant portion of that. We're looking forward to seeing some big moves," Crowther said.
Regional council chairman Doug Leeder could not be reached for comment.