A small group picketed outside Northland Regional Council yesterday to encourage the council to declare a climate change emergency.

And while NRC chairwoman Penny Smart said the council has not actively considered making such a declaration, at yesterday's full council meeting in Whangārei councillors agreed to form a new Climate Change Working Party to provide oversight on its climate change activities and make recommendations on climate change matters.

A group of about seven people had gathered outside the council's Water St office yesterday morning prior to NRC's meeting at 10.30am.

Catherine Murupaenga-Ikenn, from Extinction Rebellion Whangārei, said they were "encouraging" NRC to follow in the footsteps of Whangārei District Council and declare a climate emergency.

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"It's high time we stop talking about 'we're starting to take notice' we've got to move beyond the starting, we've had 30 years of starting and we have to now take meaningful steps to protect the future of our younger generations," she said.

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Penny Smart, chairwoman of NRC, said the council's primary role in the climate change arena was focussing on preparing for and helping communities adapt to the effects of climate change.

"For the record, the council accepts the scientific consensus that climate change is occurring and human activity influences this but notes central – not local - government has the primary legal responsibility for managing/mitigating New Zealand's greenhouse gas emissions," she said.

Catherine Murupaenga-Ikenn from Extinction Rebellion Whangārei and a group picketing outside Northland Regional Council. Photo / Michael Cunningham
Catherine Murupaenga-Ikenn from Extinction Rebellion Whangārei and a group picketing outside Northland Regional Council. Photo / Michael Cunningham

The previous term of council was a signatory to the New Zealand Local Government Leaders' Climate Change Declaration in 2017 and Smart said the newly elected council continued to support that.

At yesterday's meeting a Climate Change Working Party was set up. Members include Smart, Amy Macdonald (chair), Justin Blaikie, Jack Craw, Joce Yeoman.

Four members of the council's yet-to-be determined Te Tai Tokerau Maori and Council Working Party will make up the rest of the membership.