Whanganui District Council will wait to debate whether it will join other local bodies in formally recognising a climate emergency.

A proposal to do so by councillor Alan Taylor - put forward by councillor Josh Chandulal-Mackay while Taylor is attending the Asia Pacific Cities Summit, was deferred by councillors at Tuesday's meeting.

Instead, Taylor's motion, which asks for the council to formally recognise that "a state of global climate emergency exists" has been referred to the strategy and finance committee.

It says councils in Auckland and Nelson have declared climate emergencies and Taylor wanted to see Whanganui also recognise the situation.

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"The recommendations would not impose any costs on council but would add weight to the importance of any submissions we make to Government, and give impetus to any actions we take in implementing council's eventual climate change and other relevant strategies."

At the meeting councillor Rob Vinsen said he wanted to see the motion be put to the next strategy and finance committee meeting.

"My concern is that this item has come at haste, most of us who were out of town at the time have only just become aware of this," Vinsen said.

"It's a very important issue, it's got a lot of public interest and it needs some debate.

"I believe it's inappropriate to spring this on us with such short notice."

A vote to defer the debate to the next strategy and finance meeting found favour with eight councillors.

Mayor Hamish McDouall, deputy mayor Jenny Duncan, and Chandulal-Mackay voted against moving it to the strategy and finance committee, with McDouall saying it was a matter for the full council body.

Following the meeting, Chandulal–Mackay said he was disappointed with the outcome.

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"As a council we've already made the decision to pursue a climate change strategy and action plan, we made that decision earlier this year, so elected members have had plenty of time to consider their views on climate change," he said.

"The rationale presented by a number of councillors that they haven't had time to consider it and therefore it was better it was referred to a committee level doesn't stand up, given how much we've already discussed this issue as a council previously."