Three cheers for Whanganui District Council, who on Tuesday declared a climate emergency. This was the right thing to do and I'm glad that it passed with such overwhelming support.
It may be the only time in my lifetime that I find a declaration of emergency heartening.
It was heartening that the vote passed with a 10-3 margin.
It was heartening to listen to Councillor Taylor deliver a well prepared and thoughtful speech, and answer challenging questions with ease.
It was heartening to hear Councillor Chandalal-McKay speak, too, about the power and influence that local government bodies have on the national government.
It was heartening that Councillor Hogan, who previously had been hesitant to declare an emergency, shared how her personal connection to the awa through sport and the loss of her sister's home in the Australian bush fires had made her feel more urgency was required.
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It was heartening to see the look of satisfaction on Mayor McDouall's face after the motion passed. I can imagine that he now feels that the team is (nearly) all on board for creating a powerful working climate change strategy.
One of the most heartening things about the debate was that there wasn't much of a debate. Even our most conservative councillors agreed about the existence of man-made climate change and the need to prepare for the effects of it on our community. Although I suppose we don't know Councillor Young's thoughts on the matter as he chose to remain silent during the entire proceedings.
It was heartening that the calm and rational exchange of ideas by councillors about the language of the motion showed the thoughtfulness with which they fulfill their duties.
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Even Councillor Smith's smug, misguided overconfidence about his contribution to the cause through his personal reduction in carbon emissions was heartening. (Councillor Smith - if you really do reduce your emissions this year more than anyone else in that room, perhaps it is because you had the most to cut.) His method of choice for gauging climate action is the use of an e-car, and he is committed to that. Good on him. We need everyone to be doing what they can.
My personal method for gauging climate action is slightly different and I salute the students who were at the meeting who have been pivotal in organising local actions, those who have worked in our community to bring about systemic change, and those who ride the bus or bike on a daily basis. Being green doesn't always require fancy new stuff.
It was extremely heartening to hear from several councillors, including Councillor Craig and Councillor Crossan, who spoke about how they entered the room undecided.
This gives me great hope for this sitting council, as one that will enter into all discussions with open minds. There is no room for divisive political stances, or firm unbending personalities around the table. These two councillors have been true leaders today by openly sharing their willingness to listen and learn.
It was heartening to hear Councillor Duncan and Mayor McDouall speak about the difference between "alarmism" and events that are truly alarming. It was heartening to hear both of them speak of their desire for Whanganui to be a leader, not a follower. To be prepared, not reactive. This is what I want to hear from our leadership about all issues.
I feel hopeful that this motion will promote change upwards - in the national government; sideways - by inspiring other local governments; and, most importantly within our own community, inspiring people to recognise the severity of what we are facing.
In her opening question, Councillor Craig said she was worried about the term "emergency", because when we declare an emergency "then we drop everything and then we concentrate on that".
I have heard comments that people are worried that other pressing priorities my get overlooked if we are to concentrate fully on climate resilience. I would argue that if we don't focus on climate resilience the other problems will be exacerbated. A housing crisis solved without taking climate resilience into account, is actually a crisis deferred.
Councillor Vinsen claims that it is not up to the ratepayer to save the world. If not us, then who? It is up to all of us. Every day. In the capacities that each of us have.
Three cheers for The Whanganui District Council for passing this important motion. I look forward to the continued development of a Climate Change Strategy that responds to this emergency with our utmost capabilities.