While councils fumble decisions on climate change and the Government moves toward legislation, young people and observant adults are angry at lack of action.

Regional and district councils have been told since the early 2000s to consider climate change as they make decisions - especially where sea level rise and flooding are concerned.

But they would like more direction, more resources and a mechanism for fairly sharing costs.

NZ Herald science reporter Jamie Morton has been keeping an eye on this.


"[Councils] have been asked to carry the can and they rightly argue they just don't have many resources to do a lot of this stuff themselves. Some of them don't even know how to go about starting," he said.

Whanganui mayor Hamish McDouall was quick to sign the Local Government Leaders' Climate Change Declaration. He said councils can both prepare for climate change, and limit their own greenhouse gas emissions.

I am not even feeling the fear any more. I think we are doomed and we have got to keep trying

Whanganui's main worry is flooding and clearing the water from increasingly heavy rainstorms in the urban area. Heavier rain, longer droughts and higher temperatures could also force radical changes to our agriculture, he said.

On the emissions side, the council is steadily reducing the amount of diesel it burns in its work.

At Horizons Regional Council principal policy adviser Tom Bowen is leading a group that has started work on a climate change strategy. It will get a report from Niwa, on expected effects in the region.

Horizons already deals with climate change in its work managing flooding and reducing erosion.

Its strategy will probably be about considering climate change in everything it does, Bowen said, rather than a separate business plan.

On the emissions reduction side, it has one electric car in its vehicle fleet.

Councils will have to increasingly stop fixing infrastructure threatened by climate change. Instead they will have to abandon it. One example is Horizons' decision not to build higher stopbanks in Whanganui's Anzac Pde. Instead it will encourage people to either move or flood proof their houses.

Secondary school students strike to have their voices heard on climate change.
Secondary school students strike to have their voices heard on climate change.


Watching inaction to tackle climate change on a local and national level, Whanganui "deep green ecology" exponent Rachel Stewart has gone beyond fear.

"I am not even feeling the fear any more. I think we are doomed and we have got to keep trying."

Capitalism is incompatible with saving the climate, she said, and nothing short of massive floods and wildfires, or a revolution with adults marching in the streets with flaming torches will prompt the action needed.

A strike by young people is "farting at thunder" and won't achieve anything, she predicts.

In the meantime she's riding a bicycle, preferring to eat wild meat and doing her recycling. But she said if politicians don't get involved not much will happen.

"It all turns on central government."

Victoria University climate scientist Dr James Renwick agrees. Government and business set the tone for society and run the economy, he said.

Government could be using price and legislation to do more - for example insisting every new KiwiBuild house has a solar panel, or giving tax breaks to people buying electric cars.

"There are a number of things that aren't happening that should be happening."

Unlike Stewart, he's not looking for a revolution and end to capitalism. He said we need to stop burning fossil fuels and the Government can give price signals to get people heading in that direction.

"We don't want businesses to go broke in the process. That wouldn't help anybody."

Action may accelerate with the Government's new Climate Commission and Zero Carbon Bill - but they are taking time to arrive.

Meanwhile, alarmed by Local Government New Zealand's finding that $14 billion-worth of council owned infrastructure is at risk from sea level rise, Climate Change Minister James Shaw is working toward a National Climate Change Risk Assessment System.

It will aim to both assess risk and find a fair way to share costs.