So how does our eco game stack up locally? What are we doing to protect nature in the city?
For those following along, in June we ran the ruler over Horizons Regional Council's new plans and budgets. This month we're looking at the city's plans, again from an eco point of view.
It's all very timely. At council we've just completed our latest effort at community-informed decision making, inviting you and 90,000 of your neighbours to have a say on a great stack of paper called the draft 10-Year Plan.
We did try to distill the great stack into bite-sized pieces for feedback. This may have worked, as more than 700 people took up the opportunity to have their say. This community feedback was an amazing resource to help your councillors and council staff put the final words and numbers in place.
So a big thank you to everyone who put in a submission. It's one of the ways democracy works between elections, and your city's plans are the better for it.
Environmental priorities came through loud and clear. The climate crisis was the top issue, alongside strong interest in waste minimisation, wastewater plans and restoring nature.
On the climate front, the main message was that city-wide emissions need stronger management. No surprise there. We'd recently received notice that our city-wide emissions are still rising rapidly, a risky and patently unsustainable state of affairs.
We all need to make more staunch decisions to get our climate response headed in the right direction, and the council has a big role to play in those decisions. Other cities are succeeding in managing down emissions while improving city life, so there are proven solutions we can adopt.
Sticking with climate, the council has been successfully managing down our in-house emissions. Recent numbers indicate we've improved 20 per cent in the past four years. But with the easy wins like energy-efficient streetlights in the bag, the next steps will take a bit more grunt.
That's where the council's new $3 million budget for a Low Carbon Fund comes in. This provides investment to continue improving the council's emissions, allowing staff to do their job in a more climate-friendly way over time. We've also earmarked funds to transition some council cars to electric, and to boost staff time in the climate space to help the wider community accelerate the transition to lower emissions.
Reducing waste to landfill was another theme in the community feedback. People want more done to tackle waste. That's why I'm particularly excited the plan includes a pilot project on kerb-side organic waste collection.
With food and green waste creating nearly 40 per cent of our household waste, this is a prime opportunity to reduce waste and build soil and energy sources. There are brilliant green and food waste projects happening across Aotearoa New Zealand, both at the neighbourhood co-op and city-wide level, so lots of great inspiration to get the ball rolling.
Looking at protecting nature in the city, better care for trees in public spaces got a lot of attention in the 10-Year Plan process. In response, we provided Green Corridors volunteers with additional trees to better restore streamside and gullies, and we've invested in more care for street trees.
We also triggered creation of a tree policy to provide assurance that street trees and trees in other public spaces are better managed. We've lost a lot of public trees in recent years, with budget cuts leading to tree cuts. It's time we turned that around, and this will be a good start.
• Brent Barrett is an environmental advocate, city councillor and scientist. The views expressed here are his own.