Demonstrating leadership with climate change
The Council confirmed its position on climate change and supported the Government’s recent climate change declaration at today’s Council meeting (16/2/20).
This was in response to a question in the council meeting agenda from Councillor Robert Guyton: In light of the Government’s declaration of a climate change emergency, will this Council, which now finds itself out-of-step with, and behind central government’s position on climate change, upgrade its present approach to match that of many other councils around New Zealand and that of central government?
The Council is well aware of the potential climate change impacts such as more frequent, severe weather events; tidal inundation; freshwater availability and communities’ exposure to natural hazards.
Chairman Horrell said the Government has provided national direction with its declaration and the Council had moved early on climate change, demonstrating regional leadership.
“As a Council, we support the Government’s climate change declaration. Southland was one of the first region to commission a report on climate change impacts to help with local government planning for the future. In 2017 Environment Southland became a signatory to the Local Government Leaders’ Climate Change Declaration. We have managed our flood protection infrastructure effectively, as we saw during the February floods in the Mataura catchment, and we are fast tracking flood defence upgrades with funding assistance from central government. The Council has been working on reducing the organisation’s emissions and we are investing in LiDAR (laser imaging), which will improve modelling for things like stop bank capacity, coastal erosion, tsunami evacuation zones and landslide hazards.”
In July 2020 the Council committed to according urgency to developing a climate change action plan. At the time Chairman Horrell said: “Taking action to address climate change impacts now and in the future is a priority for this council. We are committed to making a difference in our business and doing the same for Southland.”
An internal working group of councillors and staff developed the action plan. Actions in the plan include initiating a full engineering review of the Waihopai flood management scheme, upgrading the Stead Street pump station, developing a stocktake of actions that can be undertaken within existing budgets, and implementation of an emission reduction programme across the Council’s operations.
Chairman Horrell said the Council had been having conversations with the territorial authorities and more were planned for the new year.
“As a region we have made really good progress and as a Council we are ready for the next steps by ensuring that everything we do has a climate change lens over it and that this becomes part of how we go about our work.”