Plans to cut $1.3 million from Whanganui District Council’s climate, solar and coastal plan budgets have been met with concern by Horizons Regional Council.
In a submission on the district council’s Annual Plan, Horizons chief executive Michael McCartney said the cuts could affect its ability to implement initiatives from the Manawatū Whanganui Climate Change Action Plan.
The district council’s draft Annual Plan proposes to cut $100,000 from the climate change action budget, $200,000 from the coastal plan budget and $1 million for solar initiatives.
Speaking to district councillors during a public hearing on submissions this week, Horizons chairwoman Rachel Keedwell said climate change wasn’t an area in which the budget should be cut.
“We’ve all seen from the weather events around the country that this is something real, and our communities are asking, I believe, for us to take this seriously,” she said.
Horizons councillor Alan Taylor told the hearing that it was important not to take the foot off the brake on any aspect of climate change.
He hoped for “heavier” district council funding on climate change in the future compared to current levels.
“I’ll talk to you about that next year in your Long Term Plan.”
However, in an email to Horizons before the hearing, the district council’s climate change adviser Caroline Arrowsmith has sought to allay those fears.
In the email obtained by the Chronicle, Arrowsmith said $100,000 from the climate budget would go towards the community climate action fund.
There was also some carry-over budget that would support other work in risk assessment and scoping mitigation initiatives to pursue through the Long Term Plan (LTP).
Another factor in the cut was funding for climate change initiatives through the Government’s Better Off fund, the email said.
That would go towards an energy futures study and a rainwater tanks project ($100,000) and a number of climate change mitigation and adaption projects, including focusing on working with marae ($400,000).
As for the coastal plan reduction, Arrowsmith said available funding was sufficient for the coming year due to underspends in previous years. She said $1 million was committed to solar initiatives in the last LTP.
“Further scoping has found that solar would not be a high-impact climate action for WDC [Whanganui District Council].
“The focus in the upcoming LTP will instead be on other energy initiatives, such as the conversion of gas assets.”