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CDC raises unease over ‘carbon sink’

CDC boss Geoff Hamilton said the plan change needed “a lot more work and refinement” before being adopted by GWRC. PHOTO/FILE

Carterton District Council [CDC] is concerned Wairarapa will be used as a ‘carbon sink’ to offset emissions for the Greater Wellington region.

Submissions on changes to Greater Wellington Regional Council’s [GWRC] Regional Policy Statement [RPS] close today.

The RPS sets out policies and methods for managing the region’s significant resource management issues.

Some of the key topics being addressed in the RPS change are a lack of urban development capacity, degradation of freshwater and indigenous biodiversity, and the impacts of climate change.

CDC boss Geoff Hamilton said the plan change needed “a lot more work and refinement” before being adopted by GWRC.

CDC’s submission supported the intent of the plan change “overall”, particularly the amendments that sought to better enable small- and community-scale renewable energy generation.

But large concerns remained about Wairarapa being used as a “carbon sink” to offset emissions created by other districts in the region.

In the RPS change, GWRC’s objective was to increase the area of permanent forest in the Wellington region by 2030, maximising benefits for carbon sequestration, indigenous biodiversity, land stability, water quality, and social and economic well-being.

Although CDC said it supported the increase in permanent forests across the region, it was concerned Wairarapa would be disproportionately affected by an increase in carbon farming.

“CDC seeks early involvement of a regional forest spatial plan to ensure Carterton district is not expected to provide inequitable areas of forestry,” the council said.

Ron Mark.

Carterton’s mayor-elect Ron Mark questioned whether Wairarapa was “being sacrificed to satisfy the excesses and pollution needs of large urban centres”.

“The regional plan requires significant planting of permanent forest to act as a key source of carbon sequestration to satisfy the GWRC targets,” Mark said.

“It seems to me that extensive tracts of land in Wairarapa are being viewed as potential sites to satisfy neighbouring large city needs to offset their carbon pollution.”

Mark was also concerned GWRC was seeking a “stronger say in land use activities in agriculture that result in an increase in greenhouse emissions”.

“Imagine having a bureaucrat in Wellington determine how you run your farm,” he said.

“There is nothing wrong with having green credentials, but aspirations have to be balanced by reality and common sense.

“Yes, we need to take climate change seriously, but nowhere in the GWRC plan do I see any consideration of the cost of the actions proposed.

“Yes, if we do nothing, there are costs, but before we commit to major changes, it would be essential to understand the resource implications – otherwise we are opening a bottomless pit to be funded by ratepayers.”

CDC was also concerned that the targets set in the RPS went well beyond those in the Climate Change Response [Zero Carbon] Amendment Act 2019.

“The Paris Agreement [incorporated into the CCRA Act 2019] seeks to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent below the 2005 level, not the 2019 level, by 2030,” CDC’s submission said.

Hamilton was disappointed the timing of the consultation, which was “during the middle of local body elections”.

“I am also disappointed our request for GWRC to extend the deadline for consultation, to allow new councils the ability to review draft submissions, was refused.

“This behaviour does not help GWRC build positive relationships within Wairarapa.”

GWRC environment manager Al Cross said submissions on the proposal changes to the RPS had been open since August 19 “giving people plenty of time to organise their responses and well ahead of local elections”.

Cross said CDC had made an initial enquiry as to whether “a lengthy extension could be made to when their new council is formed and up and running”.

“Greater Wellington’s response to Carterton District Council was that this would be too difficult to accommodate given the statutory timeframe the regional council is working to.” – NZLDR

  • Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland is Wairarapa’s Local Democracy Reporter, a Public Interest Journalism role funded through NZ On Air. Emily has worked at the Wairarapa Times-Age for seven years and has a keen interest in council decision-making and transparency.

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