So, the councils have grandly declared climate emergencies, no doubt patting themselves on the back for such heroic action.
Stop wasting our time, cut the talkfest and actually do something about it. Forget about declaring climate emergencies, it's the environmental issues we need to deal with, issues that we have the ability and responsibility to fix.
While I don't support students 'going on strike' (I thought going on strike was withdrawing labour), I do agree with the critical situation they are protesting about.
There are countless solutions available to deal with this environmental crisis bearing down upon us, but for the past 40 years all we have heard is grandiose eloquence and no action. Don't talk about it, just do it.
Our councils in Hawke's Bay have spent large sums of money on frivolous activities, on foolhardy projects and yet the real issues are left unresolved and unfunded. It's easy to add up the millions wasted – the water scheme, Havelock North water disaster, Te Mata Peak track removal, countless inquiries and massive legal bills to name just a few.
The regional council 'wrote off' $14 million of our ratepayers' money and they have no longer 'ring-fenced' the other $66m set aside for the Ruataniwha dam. Well here's a thought, put the $66m into dealing with our pressing environmental issues.
It's a given that the seawall work is essential, but it's a bit of King Canute to believe we can stop the tide. It's only a band-aid approach but as a community we must try to deal with the impact of pollution caused by countries way beyond our influence.
There are issues we can tackle as a community, so why do councils sit on their hands, write mitigation policies and give us weasel words instead of action?
Planting shrubs and trees is nice and fuzzy, great for the environment, but we should be doing that as a matter of course, not because we have a 'climate emergency'. And while on the matter of trees, why does the Hastings council have a fixation on removing healthy 80-year-old trees from reserves and a fixation on removing the beautiful canopy that has lined our city streets for the past 50 years.
But I digress, what we can do is seriously deal with waste minimisation.
For many years, I lived in Northeast Victoria where the waste stream was tackled with vigour. Instead of a few disinterested people having a 'half-pie' fiddle with recycling as they do at the Hastings centre, in Victoria they take it to a whole new level.
Everything into the transfer station was reviewed. As with us, green waste was recycled into mulch – but you could buy the mulch at the station – take in a trailer load of green waste, drive out with a trailer load of mulch for the garden at minimal cost.
All timber was recycled, either as firewood for sale or free to the disadvantaged, but there were also a couple of chaps de-nailing and selling the good recycled timber. There was a retail business selling the timber, recycled bikes, in fact a whole range of goods that people no longer had a use for but were perfectly good for others. Even electrical goods were tested and resold if safe.
All metal was carefully sorted, and the only thing going off to the landfill was 'real' unusable waste. The public were encouraged to carefully load their trailers to make the separation of recyclables and waste easier.
While critics of this will say that it is too labour-intensive, a lot of revenue came from the resale of the recycled goods. While that is not sufficient to pay the salaries, what is more important, providing employment and saving the planet or worrying about a few extra staff?
Perhaps council could cut back on the overpaid executives at the top of the pile and divert the payroll savings to more productive use.
Current debate between council and the Hawke's Bay communities is dealing with the rejection of recyclable materials – plastic that has the wrong number on it!
Look west across the North Island to New Plymouth where they are trialling the use of plastic chip into roading. That's the sort of proactive approach we should be taking.
There are businesses around the country who convert waste plastic bags into fence posts, hard plastic into plant pots – a wide range of opportunities there. Perhaps the economic development budget (and some of the Provincial Growth Fund) could be used to establish a company in Hawke's Bay to convert all waste plastic into useful products rather than loading the landfill.
For the past 40 years, we've read countless articles about shredding tyres and using the product in roading. It works, so why keep talking about it and watching the tyre mountain grow – just do it.
Entrepreneurs around the world crush glass back into sand (an easy inexpensive process) and use it for a range of products, glass manufacturing, concrete products, roading ad infinitum – so why do we keep talking – just do it.
For the past 40 years, there has been one outstanding example of recycling – aluminium cans but there's a reason for that.
They don't do it because the aluminium smelter is a 'good citizen'. They do it because it's efficient and cost effective. It works for aluminium, and it can still work for glass in NZ. South Australia have never given up the 10c refund on drink bottles – the incentive to recycle is a monetary return.
Then there is the regional council with its large buses carrying three people! I may be off the mark here but there's a certain irony in the concept of a diesel bus carrying three people ostensibly to minimise the environmental impact of too many cars on our roads.
The carbon footprint for those three passengers and the driver is ridiculous. So, here's a thought! Instead of councillors going to China and bringing back trinkets, bring back an electric bus or two.
China is the leading country in electric vehicle manufacturing and their 40-seater electric coaches are about NZ$100,000. Now that would make sense. Or better still small electric minibuses at NZ$60,000 to cater for the real demand.
Ignore the weasel words telling us why not – if we're determined we can do it!
So, here's the thing. There needs to be a province that takes the lead, that can trumpet that not only are we a clean green tourist attraction, but we are also a clean green environment.
Let's tap into the Provincial Growth Fund, dip into our own pockets and those of private enterprise, establish a major industry recycling all that good stuff currently going into the landfill.'
Let's be leaders and an example for others. Wouldn't it be great for the students who protest in Auckland and Wellington next year to say, if Hawke's Bay can do it, why can't the rest of New Zealand?
In the mayor's opinion piece last week, I was excited at the start but by the end, I was back to square one. Sorry but 'council putting together a climate change mitigation policy' is just pushing paper instead of recycling it.
Stuart Perry is a candidate in this year's local body elections