Hamilton City Council is not rushing to declare a climate change emergency, despite a passionate and at times emotional submission from students representing Hamilton high schools.

Instead, it is commissioning a report on the request which it will debate later in the year

A full council meeting heard submissions from the students who submitted a 1000-signature petition asking the city council to declare a climate change emergency.

The majority of councillors supported the students' message but were not keen to rush into declaring an emergency.


The Hamilton students' request is part of nationwide movement for local councils and Government to declare a climate change emergency. Auckland City Council declared a climate emergency last week.

It joined Environment Canterbury, Christchurch City Council and Nelson City Council, which all made declarations in May.

Across the globe hundreds of local governments had declared emergencies, including at least 17 in Australia, 96 in the United Kingdom, 382 in Canada, and 16 in the United States.

At the Hamilton meeting, only Councillor Garry Mallett questioned whether climate change was real.

"Since humans have existed there have always been highly motivated people saying the end is nigh. That has been going on forever and it won't stop," Mr Mallett said.

"We are going down a path without any analysis, no cost benefits, one of the most uninformed debates we have dealt with on council.

"Of course the climate is changing. If it does stop changing then we are in trouble," he said.

"The cure is way worse than the disease, if there is any disease anymore."


His comments followed a teary speech from Sacred Heart student Bridie Case-Miller, who told councillors that the window of opportunity was closing.

"I never expected to get such a large number of signatures, but this proves to council that people want this to happen," Bridie said.

"At the rate we are going we may not stop climate change, but we can slow it down.

"So many people don't care because they don't know what to believe anymore. One thing we do know is that we don't have long."

Hannah Huggan from Hillcrest High School said the affects of climate change were visible to see.

"Devastating severe weather events are affecting the people of New Zealand. This is more than an environmental issue, this is also a social and economic issue," she said.

"When the rich wage war it is the poor that die, and it is the rich that is fueling this crisis.

"We are being offered a window of opportunity. I am here to ask you to send a message to Hamilton and New Zealand that you value our environment."

Joanne Nightingale from Rototuna High School told councillors that her fear growing up was being alive while the world ended.

"That fear is becoming a reality," Joanne said. "You have the power to do what is right. Time is something that we do not have.

"I am no expert in climate change, but I am scared for our future. We are the first generation to feel the impact of climate change," she said.

Timi Barabas from Rototuna High School said she wanted to be remembered as a person who tried to turn this world into a better place.

"I need you to understand that our future is just as a important as yours," Timi said. "One day, sooner than you think, our home is going to be at serious risk."

"Climate change is something that was created by us, and it is something that we can be solved by us. Your children, and your children's children's future is in your hands."

"We trust you to make the right decision."

Councillor Dave Macpherson said he believes there is a climate change emergency right now, but the council needs a defined list of actions before declaring an emergency.

"I think we can have a New Zealand way of looking at this, we need a community base approach," Mr Macpherson said.

Hamilton City Councillor Dave Macpherson said council needs a list of actions it can take. Photo / Alan Gibson
Hamilton City Councillor Dave Macpherson said council needs a list of actions it can take. Photo / Alan Gibson

"Areas we need to improve in. We need to make our housing far more sustainable, rain water tanks.

"Garry said the end is nigh, well the end is nigh for people like Garry who are climate change deniers."

Councillor Paula Southgate said more focus should be put on restoring Hamilton's green spaces.

"We do have good opportunities in Hamilton as we have a lot of green space. If we had more resource we could fast-track the restoration of our gullies," Ms Southgate said.

Councillor Leo Tooman said he was confused by the presentations, saying people were dying in motor vehicle accidents more than climate change.

"Are we also prepared to put the same sort of emphasis on road safety?" Mr Tooman said.
"At this stage I will wait and see what comes out of this."

Councillor Mark Bunting said it was time to do what's right and not what is easy.

"It is easy to declare an emergency, but it is harder to do what is right. It is very hard to spend $95 million dollars on a waste minimisation fund but we are doing it," Mr Bunting said.

"For too long Hamilton has followed the Waikato. It is time for Hamilton to lead the Waikato."

Councillor Garry Mallett was the only councillor to vote against the motion to look into declaring a climate change emergency.

Mayor Andrew King, Deputy Mayor Martin Gallagher and councillors Angela O'Leary, James Casson, Paula Southgate, Siggi Henry, Geoff Taylor, Mark Bunting, Dave Macpherson, Leo Tooman and Ryan Hamilton all voted in favour.

Councillor Rob Pascoe was absent from the vote but has previously said that he wanted the council to deal with climate change issues.

Council election candidates Anna Smart and Lisa Lewis also attended.