Hauraki District Council has been congratulated for its climate actions, while it required a High Court order to compel Thames Coromandel District Council to consult with its community and take action on zero carbon goals, says regional councillor Denis Tegg.
Tegg is the Thames-Coromandel representative for Waikato Regional Council and said Hauraki had shown leadership with the release of its Zero Carbon Promise strategy.
The HDC is already carbon zero due to its council-owned forestry blocks.
But Tegg says the strategy is a clear path to where it can lower emissions caused by its business operations — "in contrast" to neighbouring TCDC.
Thames-Coromandel Mayor Sandra Goudie refused to sign a leaders' climate change declaration.
Tegg, who is chairman of the Hauraki Climate Action Group which successfully challenged
TCDC over its climate change stance, said that following WRC's leadership, HDC had produced an emission profile within its own activities "with no humiliating mayoral refusal to acknowledge humans are causing climate change, no refusal to consult and listen, and no hesitation to commit to emission reduction action and partnering with the community".
TCDC has now been ordered to go back and consult its community and ratepayers on whether or not the mayor should sign.
The council is advocating for central government to take the lead, saying Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) had made it clear central government must work with local authorities to address climate change and its impacts.
HDC Mayor Toby Adams signed the Local Leaders Climate Change Declaration in 2017. He said change starts with each one of us.
"Who takes the lead is irrelevant. It's what part do we all take? And we have all got to play a part. For us at council, we made our promise to look at ourselves as an industry, as a council.
"We have an impact, we know the climate is changing and it's having an impact on the planet and we've got to do something."
Mayor Goudie said TCDC was focusing its resources on a detailed shoreline management plan, gathering and providing scientific expertise on climate change to its communities and then listening to what courses of action they wished TCDC to take.
"Our Greenhouse Gas Reduction Plan is being developed and will set us on a course to reduce council's greenhouse gas emissions and help us play a part to reduce national greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050.
"An example initial initiative is replacing our existing streetlights across the district with LED lights, which has resulted in an approximate saving of 40 tonnes of carbon to date."
She said the council's emissions profile is part of a wider discussion it was having with communities and partners following the completion of its Long Term Plan.
HDC is following guidelines and scientific data from the likes of the Ministry for the Environment and Niwa to assess council assets and organisational emissions.
The District Greenhouse Gas Inventory factored in emissions from industry, separating out emissions for coal mining and processing and oil and natural gas systems but did not separate the impacts of mining of gold and silver.
It said central government is having conversations with industry about carbon zero goals from mining and the expansion of mining in Waihi.
A recent greenhouse gas-emission inventory showed the Hauraki District and wider Waikato Region as a whole produce more emissions than are offset.
Mayor Adams said the Zero Carbon Promise would investigate new technologies to reduce sewage sludge emissions, introducing greener stormwater structures and look at green building options.
"If we're going to start telling people this is the right thing to do, we should have our own ship in order so we can help everybody else by leading by example."
He said the Climate Change Leaders Declaration does not commit council to specific budget spend.
"It is a declaration that acknowledges the urgent need to address climate change for the benefit of current and future generations, that NZ needs a transition plan toward a low-carbon and resilient New Zealand, and it states councils will develop and implement ambitious action plans that reduce greenhouse gas emissions."
Most community feedback to date was about planting more trees in the district. Many noted they should be natives to enhance biodiversity.
He believed the district was doing great work in the agricultural sector, including research into methane inhibitors, planting trees and restoring wetlands.
"Planting trees is one of the best ways to reduce carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere as they store carbon and release oxygen. As part of its Promise, the council has plans to plant more trees in road reserves and council-owned land. It's also investigating partnerships and external funding for electric vehicle infrastructure.
"Ultimately we want to work with iwi, business, youth and our wider communities to set emissions reduction targets for our district and work out what we need to do to achieve our goals."
What are the current impacts of climate change and what's being done?
• Sea level rise might require stopbanks to be raised
• Gravity drainage might become less effective due to floodgates becoming partially submerged
• A community-led plan called Wharekawa Coast 2120 is being developed now, while another for the Hauraki Plains is starting in 2024