Two weeks ago I wrote in this column that I was feeling hopeful Horizons would commit to setting targets for climate change action. Time for a Tui – "yeah right".
My proposal for us to develop a climate change strategy was voted down last week.
The timing seems a little bit ironic given this week the Government has launched consultation on its Zero Carbon Act, which follows the recent release of the Productivity Commission's report into a low emissions economy.
The tide is turning, yet we're ignoring the momentum locally.
Minister for Climate Change and Green Party co-leader James Shaw was interviewed earlier this week about the upcoming Zero Carbon Act.
The resulting news coverage focused on his answer to a question about whether reducing meat intake could help.
It's true that reducing the number of meals based around meat you eat makes a positive difference for the planet. The environmental costs of choosing meat over plant-based protein are well established.
Our family has reduced meat and one of our popular options is simply replacing mince in a dish with a can of lentils – vegetarian nachos is a hit with the kids. It saves money too.
But individual choices are not enough alone – we need systems change, which is why I'm excited we have this Zero Carbon Act to consider.
It reminds me of a favourite cartoon that has a speaker at a climate summit listing all the positives: "energy independence, preserve rainforests, sustainability, green jobs, livable cities, renewables, clear water and air, healthy children etc". A heckler calls out: "What if it's a big hoax and we create a better world for nothing?"
I think those who question the validity of climate change are dropping away as we have more and more evidence building of extreme events, consistently higher than average temperatures, increasing sea levels and coastal erosion – even the recent floods washing masses of forestry slash on the East Coast is associated with climate change.
The consultation launched this week gives all New Zealanders a chance to have their say on the focus of this Act.
It proposes targets and sets emissions budgets, establishes an independent Climate Change Commission to advise the Government of the day, and devises a national adaption plan to help manage risk and minimise economic impacts.
At both a national level via this Act, and a local level via Horizons, I believe targets are essential. This simple business technique focuses attention – we measure what we do, and do what we measure.
New Zealand needs to do its part to slow the impacts of climate change we're already experiencing. One necessary change is stepping away from fossil fuels, with a key step being the new Government's recent decision to stop block offers for offshore oil and gas exploration.
Many of us welcomed that move, as much as an important signal as anything – that decision doesn't cover seabed mining, or oil and gas operators continuing existing operations or progressing existing permits.
This week we received the shocking news that an exploration permit has been issued for seabed mining off New Plymouth for an area, EP55709, released via a 2016 block offer.
This is not the same as the EPA's decision to approve seabed mining off Patea, currently under appeal. And the issuing of a permit doesn't mean mining will automatically follow – the applicant still needs to get the necessary consents.
But it's a reminder that the forces who wish to exploit the environment for short-term gain are relentless. Restrictions on areas totaling 40,000km2 in Otago and Nelson were lifted a week ago, and submissions on another Taranaki land-based oil and gas block offer closed yesterday.
It is urgent that we move away from these destructive options and focus on meaningful alternatives. New technologies, planting trees, expanding renewable electricity, and social enterprise are real options – we can't wait any longer.
Nicola Patrick is a councillor at Horizons Regional Council, works for Te Kaahui o Rauru and is part of a new social enterprise hub, Thrive Whanganui. A mum of two boys, she has a science degree and is a Green Party member.