A new trend of declaring regional climate change emergencies is sweeping New Zealand's local government authorities. In recent months Environment Canterbury, Christchurch City Council, Nelson City Council, Auckland Council and, as of Thursday, Wellington City Council have declared emergencies, following the lead of countries including Wales and Canada. Now Bay of Plenty Regional Council is considering following suit. Samantha Motion reports.
A Rotorua district councillor has welcomed a move by the Bay of Plenty Regional Council to consider declaring a climate change emergency.
Climate change emergencies have been declared in countries including Wales and Canada, and by local government bodies in New Zealand including Environment Canterbury, Christchurch City Council, Nelson City Council and Auckland Council.
Wellington City Council voted last week to make a similar declaration and the Hawkes Bay Regional Council will soon consider a recommendation for one from one of its committees.
Tomorrow the Bay of Plenty Regional Council direction and delivery committee will discuss whether to follow suit, as well as whether to establish a climate change fund.
Jane Nees, the council's deputy chairwoman, said submissions to the council's Annual Plan urging the council to make a declaration prompted her to request a paper on the subject.
"Whether you believe in climate change or not, the fact is things are changing and we are experiencing the effects of those changes.
"Part of what we need to do is to highlight the issues and the risks for the public. Making a declaration like this raises it up."
The council has a drafted a Climate Change Action Plan.
Rotorua Lakes councillor Tania Tapsell said the trend of declarations was a "reflection of the concerns of the community".
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"Particularly the younger generation that will be living with the effects of [climate change]."
Hundreds of Rotorua school students joined a strike for climate change in March.
While Tapsell said she did not believe climate change was an emergency in this region, she did believe it was a crisis.
"We know there are some serious consequences such as sea level rise and flooding in our area that do need more support."
She said the Rotorua council was developing a Climate Change Action Plan with input from the community.
To make a declaration more than a symbolic gesture, she said it needed to have "funding and resources put behind it".
"We need more than words, we need action."
While the declaration trend has been met with scepticism by some councillors in Tauranga, Tapsell believed Rotorua's elected officials would be behind it.
However Bay of Plenty MP Todd Muller, National's climate change spokesman, said councils should be focusing on doing the basics, not "waving climate flags with one eye on the upcoming elections".
"What actually counts is what are they going to do differently, what plans will change, what will the additional cost on rates will be.
"Most of these council statements are just that, statements, with no plan or detail around them at all."