At last we have it! An Emissions Reduction Plan with the funding to back it was released on Monday.
A plan for real action on climate change. Not just an emissions trading scheme, that to the dismay of our rural communities has subsidised whole farm conversions to pine forests. But meaningful reductions in the emission of greenhouse gases from the outset.
So, what does the Emissions Reduction Plan or ERP mean for Hawke's Bay? Answer: Lots. Let me explain.
First, and foremost, there is no denying that the Government's ERP leans heavily on reducing emissions from transport. It sets targets amounting to a 41 per cent reduction in transport emissions by 2035 from 2019 levels.
Given transport is responsible for 40 per cent of CO2 emissions in New Zealand (and about 20 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions) this target is understandable, but heroic in its ambition. In fact, I understand this to be one of the most ambitious targets of its kind in the OECD.
Is the ERP just a plan to make a plan as some commentators have suggested? Not if we put it into action.
In Hawke's Bay, we are already doing just that, pulling every lever, tackling CO2 emissions at every level of the transport network.
First, the ERP seeks to improve the reach, frequency and quality of public transport. That is exactly what our MyWay public transport trial – starting in Hastings next month – is all about.
A user friendly, accessible and affordable service where you decide when to catch the bus and where you want it to take you, anywhere in Hastings for just $2 a trip. Next year, we roll this out in Napier.
Secondly, active transport. The ERP aims to substantially improve infrastructure for walking and cycling.
With the leadership and backing of regional councillor Van Beek, Napier City Councillor Graeme Taylor and Hastings District councillor Damon Harvey, our goal is that active transport or "cycling for a purpose" will soon have its own regional subcommittee, with a voting member on the Regional Transport Committee.
The Government has allocated $350 million for improving access to low impact transport including walking and cycling. With regional coordination we will be best placed to leverage funding from this pool to ensure cycle-roads and walkways become integral to all new transport investment decisions in Hawke's Bay.
Frankly, with Hawke's Bay's climate and generally flat land, if we can't make cycling and walking to work part of everyday life, and a safe and attractive option for going about our daily business, who can?
Third, rail. The regional council has co-funded (with Gisborne District Council) a detailed series of assessment reports going to government ministers this week, overseen by a Project Steering Group which I am part of, in support of a fully funded business case to reinstate the Gisborne to Wairoa rail line.
The Wairoa to Napier line is now running at five trains per week, meaning 10,000 trucks per year are no longer using the notorious State Highway 2 stretch between Napier and Wairoa.
The Gisborne to Wairoa line would match that, and even with diesel trains employed, reduce CO2 emissions by up to 3500 tonnes per annum.
Fourth, electric vehicles. It is great to see the Government funding a $570 million "scrap and replace" scheme targeted at lower income earners so they can transition to hybrid and electric vehicles.
We cannot leave anyone behind, where only the wealthy can afford low emission cars. But we clearly need more charging stations in Hawke's Bay and I believe, incentives for smart charging devices to be installed in every house, to make charging at home faster and cheaper.
Again, this needs to be front and centre for the Transport Committee, working with our lines company Unison and the local authorities to make it happen.
So there you have it. My only fear is that the regions get left out in the cold on this, increasingly warm as that cold may be!
I do sense a priority within the ERP for investment in public and active transport in our major cities, and your local government leaders need to make sure the regions get their fair share of the overall ERP budget.
Working together as a region, we have the best chance to make that happen on the journey to Hawke's Bay becoming net carbon zero by 2050, which is one of Hawke's Bay Regional Council's most important strategic objectives.
Martin Williams is chairman, Hawke's Bay Regional Transport Committee