Few would have been surprised by the wrath that was heaped upon the Westland Regional Council after it publicly refused to support the government's global warming emissions plan, but some media might have contributed to that with its not-uncharacteristic carelessness.

The council's stance is that it won't support the government's plan, which clearly threatens the West Coast more than most regions, until it sees evidence of anthropomorphic global warming. It's not denying that the planet is getting warmer, but isn't convinced that human activity is responsible for it. More to the point, it needs to be persuaded that turning the Coast into a museum will make a difference.

Within hours of the story making the news the council was being accused of denying global warming. Perhaps that explained some of the reaction, although expressing any doubt whatsoever about the so-called proven science is to invite an avalanche of criticism.

Whether global warming is caused by people or not, the West Coast might be regarded as a special case when it comes to measures designed to turn the tide. Reliant as it is upon mining, forestry and farming, it is no doubt regarded by some as doing more damage to the climate than most, but it only has a population of 32,600, with four towns boasting more than 1000 inhabitants. And 90 per cent of the region is conservation estate.


It could be argued that the West Coast is already doing more than most, certainly more per head of population, to sequester carbon. One would hardly expect it to be leading the charge when it comes to supporting politicians who reckon they can control the weather.

The argument that we New Zealanders are amongst the greatest emissions-producing people on the planet, as calculated by emissions per person, and that we should be leading by example even if we collectively generate only 0.17 per cent of the world's emissions, and are therefore not well placed to make much of a difference, is unlikely to mollify West Coasters, And nor should it.

The fact that some 15 per cent of global emissions are generated by the burning of Chinese coal, and that China is building new coal-burning power stations at an extraordinary rate, is extremely relevant. Even if the West Coast produced no emissions at all, global warming, if it is caused by man, will continue unabated.

That would not seem to offer an especially solid argument for inviting Coasters to shut down their economy, or even to contribute to the taxes that we are told are our only hope for survival.

It is fair enough that if New Zealand wants the world to reduce its carbon emissions then it should do its bit towards achieving that, but there has to be some acknowledgement that we are not in a position to make any meaningful contribution.

It should also be acknowledged that while we work to reduce our emissions, we all have livings to make and a economy to nurture. Unless of course we're prepared to return to the Stone Age.

A great deal of time, effort and money are being spent in this country on reducing emission rates, especially in terms of pastoral farming, which should stand us in good stead within the international community, and of course we're planting trees as fast as we can to further reduce our contribution to emissions escaping into the atmosphere, but West Coasters will not be the only ones to have noticed that the really big contributors to rising temperatures, if they are caused by human activity, appear to be doing very little, if anything.

Meanwhile we are encouraged to believe that if we pay more taxes we can play an important role in ensuring that Planet Earth remains habitable. The West Coast Regional Council has simply, and not unreasonably, asked for evidence that that is so. And good for them.


Along with criticism the council has earned plaudits from New Conservative leader Leighton Baker, who reckons the $1.4 billion of New Zealand taxpayers' money that is disappearing annually into the "ether" of carbon credits, with no notified effect on greenhouse gases or global warming, could be much better spent on researching ways of reducing pollution.

He suspects that the West Coast would welcome some of that money for researching alternatives to 1080, the construction of waste incinerators, saving landfills and creating energy, while turning bio-waste into bio-fuel, research into zero-emission coal and gas plants, expanding the use of renewables and alternative energy sources would all be worthy of serious consideration instead of buying carbon credits, "which are really just a fine for not meeting agreed targets."

Fundamentally the council was looking after its constituents, and the government and others elected by ratepayers could learn from that. Hear hear.

Councils have always been reluctant to challenge higher authorities, including politicians who have scant expertise, in all sorts of areas. They tend to do as Wellington tells them, regardless of whether any benefit can realistically be expected, or the impact those instructions might have on their ratepayers or economy.

Councils have become experts at admiring the emperor's new clothes at every opportunity, and it is refreshing to see one finally standing up to people who are used to being obeyed without question.

Its request for evidence that supporting the government's emissions target will benefit its people, or anyone else, is entirely reasonable, and other councils would do well to adopt the same rebellious attitude.

Carless daze?

The ongoing debate over the pros and cons of legalising cannabis continues to generate more heat than light, with neither side of the argument showing much sign of wavering.

Those who argue that the current regime is making criminals out of New Zealanders who simply make use of a harmless plant that offers myriad benefits, not least medicinal, and whose effects compare favourably with those of alcohol, will brook no contrary view, while those who claim it is harmful, particularly to the young, are derided as ill-informed and/or prejudiced.

There are a couple of things to consider should cannabis be legalised, however, one of them being the impact it will have on the road toll. It is already against the law to drive under the influence of drugs, including cannabis, but if it is legalised, surely much greater efforts will have to be made to detect it and punish those who drive after indulging.

As with alcohol, cannabis can be expected to be found after someone has been injured or killed. Otherwise, given that cannabis remains in the body much longer than alcohol does, permanently for regular users, perhaps dope smokers will have to become walkers.

A post to the Northland Age Facebook page last week made an even more pertinent point: 'Most workplaces have policies where you will lose your job if you test positive for weed in a drug test. Not because it's illegal, but because of the danger of an impaired worker under the influence. Legalising it will not change this'.

Unemployable pedestrians then? Just what we need more of.