Central Otago district councillors have voted to declare a climate “crisis” rather than a climate emergency.
But the council was committed to providing climate change leadership regardless of any decision around a declaration, councillors and council staff said.
Pupils from Alexandra’s St Gerard’s School had made a presentation to the council in August, asking it to declare a climate emergency in the Central Otago region.
Central Otago Mayor Tim Cadogan amended the recommendation before councillors to declaring a climate “crisis” or not, rather than an emergency, after many councillors said they were worried the word “emergency” would create fear and not achieve the action required.
A report from council infrastructure services executive manager Julie Muir noted the work the council had already done to understand, mitigate and adapt to the impacts of climate change.
They included commissioning a report from Bodeker Scientific in 2017 on climate change implications for Central Otago; adopting a sustainability strategy earlier this year; preparing a resilience plan for infrastructure in the event of a civil emergency; and doing measurements and an audit of the council’s carbon footprint. A goal to reduce its carbon emissions would then be set.
Other actions taken included installation of public electric vehicle charging stations; introducing hybrid vehicles to the council fleet; district-wide replacement of streetlights with LED lights; and contributing to a heat transfer system between the Molyneux Aquatic Centre and Ice Inline.
As well as voting to declare a climate crisis, councillors also approved a recommendation from Mr Cadogan for council staff to include considerations about sustainability, the environment and climate change impacts on all reports provided to the council and boards from the new triennium.
The council will also investigate how and whether to gradually switch all the council’s vehicles to hybrid, electric or other alternate-fuel vehicles; and to scrutinise all council-elected member and staff air travel for necessity prior to approval.