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Climate focus for new committee

Waste minimisation, town planning, and emergency preparedness were key topics of discussion at the first meeting of the South Wairarapa District Council’s newly-created Climate Change and Environment Committee.

The group has been created to examine council functions in the context of climate change, and to advise of mitigation and adaptation efforts.

Items on the agenda of a recent meeting included an update on the council’s climate change Ruamahanga Strategy, and reports from the council’s planning and waste minimisation departments.

Councillor Rebecca Gray, who chairs the committee, said climate change touched nearly every function of council business and the committee looked forward to exploring ways the district could be assisted to face these challenges.

“We heard from our planners about how climate change resilience and good environmental management are being built into the development of our new communities as well as folded into how we manage and design our towns.

“We heard about the opportunity to change and improve how we deal with waste in the upcoming Waste Management and Minimisation Plan.

“We also heard about how our council is monitoring and decreasing its carbon footprint.

“This meeting gave us a good overview of how well we are doing so far but has also left us with an appetite for achieving much more.”

Work on the Ruamahanga Strategy stems from a nationwide agreement between councils in 2015 to address climate change.

A collaboration between the South Wairarapa and Carterton district councils, it aims to reduce both organisations’ carbon footprints, and lays out an action plan to 2033.

As part of the strategy, both councils have committed to reducing their gross greenhouse gas emissions and plan to action a low-carbon events policy, install water tanks on council property, promote renewable energy, and other ideas.

Climate change is also front of mind in ‘the planning space’, said Russell O’Leary, Group Planning and Environment.

“Use, development and protection of land takes on a new light in terms of the effects of climate change,” he said.

“For example, the influence of climate change on the location and magnitude of flood hazards and what land use development should be allowed within these areas.

“There are also the effects that our land use has on climate change, such as emissions. The pattern and nature of urban development, as well as the ability to use and develop renewable energy, can influence the level of emissions.”

The existing Wairarapa Combined District Plan already considers climate change in relation to foreshore protection, renewable energy, flood hazards, and development and natural hazards along our coastlines.

The new draft District Plan develops these areas further, including a requirement for rainwater collection tanks for new dwellings in residential areas and more detail on renewable electricity generation for the future.

The committee was first suggested by new South Wairarapa Mayor Martin Connelly, who said there had initially been “quite a lot of pushback”, but it is an area he regards as “important”.

Gray said she is grateful Connelly had the foresight to appoint a group with a specific focus on climate change, “and I hope to make the most of this opportunity to make a real impact for our communities and environment”.

“There is a lot of mahi to do in the environmental space, and we’re not shy about asking big questions from our council as to how this could be made to happen.

“Luckily, our council staff are passionate about working hard and getting things right, so I feel that we can achieve some great things over this triennium.”

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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