A new trend of declaring regional climate change emergencies is sweeping New Zealand's local governments. In recent months Environment Canterbury, Christchurch City Council, Nelson City Council, Auckland Council and, as of Thursday, Wellington City Council have declared emergencies, following the lead of countries including Wales and Canada. But for one Tauranga City councillor - a former MP and confessed sceptic of human-caused climate change - it's all a bit much. Samantha Motion reports.
A Tauranga City councillor has slammed the trend of councils declaring climate change emergencies as "complete nonsense" and says people are being "brainwashed".
Former MP Larry Baldock's comments come ahead of a move by the Bay of Plenty Regional Council tomorrow towards declaring a regional climate emergency or crisis.
Climate change emergencies have been declared by Environment Canterbury, Christchurch City Council, Nelson City Council, Auckland Council and, last week, Wellington City Council.
Tomorrow the Bay of Plenty Regional Council's direction and delivery committee will discuss recommending the council follow suit, as well as whether to establish a climate change fund.
Council deputy chairwoman Jane Nees said the council received Annual Plan submissions calling for a declaration.
"Whether you believe in climate change or not, the fact is things are changing and we are experiencing the effects of those changes.
"Part of what we need to do is to highlight the issues and the risks for the public. Making a declaration like this raises it up."
Gray Southon, co-ordinator of Tauranga's Carbon Reduction Group, applauded the move saying it would bring "urgency" to the issues and the council was already doing a good job of putting action behind the sentiment with its draft Climate Change Action Plan.
"For four decades there has been a general awareness that our lifestyles and economy are ruining our future, but we have been very reluctant to respond.
"We are all part of the problem."
Bay of Plenty MP Todd Muller, National's climate change spokesman, said councils should be focusing on "basics" such as roads and infrastructure, not "waving climate flags with one eye on the upcoming elections".
"What actually counts is what are they going to do differently, what plans will change, what will the additional cost on rates will be. Most of these council statements are just that, statements."
On Tuesday Tauranga City Council debated what kind of submission to make to the Government's Zero Carbon Bill.
Four councillors - Catherine Stewart, Larry Baldock, Rick Curach and Bill Grainger - voted to make no submission but were outvoted by those wanting to support Local Government New Zealand's submission.
Baldock said he was an "anthropomorphic climate change sceptic".
He did not deny the climate was changing but said New Zealand's 0.17 per cent share of global carbon emissions was "minuscule" and there was no reason for the council to address it urgently given more pressing challenges.
Declaring a climate change emergency was "complete nonsense".
"I was climate change spokesman in 2002 to 2005 in Parliament with every expert I wanted to talk to and nothing I have seen has made me change my view that we are being brainwashed into some of the most crazy wastes of money that you can imagine."
He later clarified to the Bay of Plenty Times that he was a spokesman for United Future on the Kyoto Protocol, an international treaty on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Councillor John Robson hit back at Baldock, saying the council should not be relitigating established science.
"Anyone who is operating in area of climate science … who doesn't understand the difference between anthropomorphic and anthropogenic needs to go back and do their study again."
Anthropomorphic vs anthropogenic
- Anthropogenic means to have originated in human activity and is usually used to describe sceptics of human-caused climate change
- Anthropomorphic means having human characteristics.