Weekly column by Kāpiti mayor K Gurunathan.
Last week I touched on the 2019 warning issued by Jack Hodder QC to a Local Government NZ conference on the increasing litigation against local authorities over the impact on properties by climate change.
Two weeks ago in Australia, eight teens and an octogenarian nun created history when the High Court, responding to a coal mining case, declared that the environment minister had a duty of care to protect young people from the climate crisis. The good judge did not grant the injunction they were seeking but added that he was not satisfied that the minister would breach her duty of care.
The last week of May also saw what has been described in the international media as "... a stunning series of defeats for the oil industry." The district court at The Hague ordered Shell to cuts its carbon emissions from its oil and gas by 45 per cent by 2030. At ExxonMobil an activist investor group managed to place two of its nominees on ExxonMobil's board. At Chevron investors successfully rebelled against management to reduce emissions.
"There is no doubt that this week's news has not been so much a shot across the bows as a direct hit to the hull of Big Oil," noted The Guardian.
In Italy, in a first legal action of its kind, environmental campaigners are suing the Government for failing to sufficiently tackle the climate crisis.
Last Friday, mayors across New Zealand received a joint letter from Associate Minister for the Environment James Shaw, and Minister of Local Government Nanaia Mahuta, outlining the progress on the National Policy Statement for Indigenous Biodiversity.
An estimated 4000 native plants and wildlife are currently threatened or at risk of extinction. While protection of these are already in the RMA, previous Governments have not provided guidance to councils on how to identify and protect areas of significant indigenous biodiversity. The new national policy statement is aimed at providing standardised ecological criteria and process.
A draft, including an implementation plan, will be ready for testing, with the Government aiming to release the final statement by the end of the year. The move to protect and enhance our indigenous biodiversity comes as international conservationists are warning that a drastic cutback on global emissions must go hand-in-hand with the regeneration of our natural environment, including the rewilding of our urban centres.
"Restoring and protecting nature boosts biodiversity and ecosystems that can rapidly and cheaply absorb carbon again," noted a report by 50 leading biodiversity and climate change experts convened by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Leaving the macro level, I quote a recent statement by Cr Martin Haliday: "I have been a proponent of people taking responsibility for their own carbon footprint including what you purchase, recycle and disposal." It is a point made over recent discussion about the proposed closure of the recycling centre in Waikanae.
In conjunction with its closure he wants to see the council's access to funds from the Government's Waste Minimisation Levy used to support local solutions like the sharing of the rubbish and recycling bins and community initiatives on using the site.
In Ōtaki the community is using a council-owned site for recycling timber. At the moment, the Waikanae operation is subsidised by other suburbs. About seven years ago the recycling centres at Paekākāriki, Rimu Rd and Kena Kena were closed down, with most people preferring to use the curbside recycling service.
The Waikanae centre was not closed due to traffic safety concerns, given those travelling south on the SH1 had to negotiate the safety black spot at Otaihanga intersection to access the Otaihanga transfer station. That intersection, now with a roundabout, is no longer a black spot and Waikanae residents have an additional safe route via the expressway. A survey of people using the Waikanae site found a majority already served by kerbside recycling bins.