Hawke's Bay Regional Council has declared a climate emergency, with little to no fanfare.

It follows similar declarations from seven other councils across New Zealand, including Auckland, Wellington, Environment Canterbury and Dunedin.

There were only a few members of the public there to witness the decision, in vast contrast to last week's Environment and Services Committee when protesters congregated outside the council buildings.

That meeting was to decide whether to go ahead with Wednesday's full council decision.

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As part of the climate emergency, HBRC agreed to provide an annual progress report regarding climate change, include climate change as a key factor in decision making and to reduce HBRC's greenhouse gas emissions.

It also voted to lobby the Ministry for the Environment to include greenhouse gas emissions in the consenting process.

Community engagement was highlighted as an area of importance.

The vote was not unanimous, councillor Fenton Wilson said he felt actions were more important that words.

"One of the first councils out of the blocks, Environment Canterbury declared an emergency ... there was lots of backslapping ... the very next meeting they put the bus fares up.

"So they are driving people out of public transport when they have just declared an emergency.

"We don't need to be clumsy and foolhardy in some of our declarations when in fact we are getting on and doing the work."

Councillor Debbie Hewitt also voted against the recommendations, saying she took issue with the word "emergency".

She said what the council is trying to achieve is climate change responsibility.

"We should be far more proactive on the ground than just declaring an emergency."

Councillor Neil Kirton said he could understand that perspective, however felt it was a bigger issue.

"The issue is not simply that this council protects its riverbanks and its other infrastructure.

"That's not the point, this is a much, much more significant move."

He compared it to New Zealand's nuclear free-stance, which was less about the impact the country could make on a global stage, but about making a point.

"It's about being a part of a global uprising."

Councillor Alan Dick, who voted against the recommendations when they were before the Environment and Services Committee, changed his vote and voted for the declaration.

However he said actions needed to follow.

"I am prepared to go with the flow on this, with the reservation that it is actions which are important."

Debate on the issue was relatively quick, perhaps due to chairman Rex Graham warning council at the beginning of the meeting he did not want any "Churchillian" style speeches, something Hawke's Bay regional councillors are known for.