Whanganui District Council has declared a climate emergency.

Ten of the 13 councillors voted to make the declaration at Tuesday's meeting which filled the public gallery.

Ten out of the 13 voted for the declaration.

Councillors Alan Taylor, Kate Joblin and Jenny Duncan all wanted a unanimous decision but councillors Rob Vinsen, Graeme Young and Charlie Anderson voted "no".

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In August the council's strategy and finance committee voted climate change "an impending crisis" rather than an "emergency", with all but former councillor David Bennett agreeing.

Taylor brought the matter back to council because he wanted the "emergency" word.

He said it would get more people engaged and make for earlier and faster action.

His motion was seconded by councillor Josh Chandulal-Mackay. He said carbon had been at 300 parts per million in the atmosphere for 800,000 years and January's 415 parts per million was an emergency.

But words like "alarmist" and "scaremongering" were bandied about.

Vinsen repeated his previous opinion that it was not up to the ratepayer to save the world.

He said declaring an emergency was alarmist and would make no practical difference.

"It's not an emergency. The targets being set are 30, 50, 70 years," he said.

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Councillor Charlie Anderson said there were a lot of people in Whanganui who didn't believe climate change existed.

"We need to educate, not scaremonger," he said.

Councillor Helen Craig agreed a lot of people would be anti a declaration, but she said that was a pity because everybody's behaviour will need to change.

 The public seats were packed as councillors debated a climate change declaration. Whanganui Chronicle photograph by Bevan Conley.
The public seats were packed as councillors debated a climate change declaration. Whanganui Chronicle photograph by Bevan Conley.

Councillor Hadleigh Reid, who has an electric car, was pretty confident he would do more than anyone there to reduce his carbon footprint.

He asked everyone who had come to the meeting without the aid of fossil fuels to raise their hands.

Councillor Philippa Baker-Hogan said she was "too weak" last time climate change was discussed.

Since then Aramoho Whanganui Rowing Club has taken steps to secure its building against flooding and her sister's house in Australia has burned in a bush fire.

Councillors Kate Joblin and Jenny Duncan both wanted a unanimous vote, and Joblin said it should not absolve the council from action. Duncan said if the notion of climate change was ridiculed at social occasions then councillors should talk back.

"As a local authority we don't want to be the 53rd one out of 60 [to make a declaration]. We want to be at the forefront."

Whanganui mayor Hamish McDouall will call his mayoralty a success if he does nothing other than vote for the declaration, he said.

Councillor Graeme Young did not speak to the motion. Councillor James Barron said climate change fitted the definition of an "emergency" and councillor Brent Crossan said he had worried a declaration would scare people, but was swayed to voting in favour.