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GWRC locks in climate ambitions

Trees planted at Onoke Spit. PHOTO/FILE

Ambitious climate change action was quickly signed off at Greater Wellington Regional Council’s long-term plan meeting this week.

These bold targets mean council could reach its climate-positive goal sooner than 2035 while removing more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than it emits sooner than it planned.

Climate change was the centre of two of the three main public consultation topics.

The council committed to decarbonising its public transport fleet and restoring regional parks.

Metlink, managed by GWRC, will switch to electric or hydrogen-powered trains and related infrastructure in Wairarapa and Manawatu over the next 10 years, introducing electric or hydrogen trains into service by 2026.

Council said this would significantly impact carbon emissions, reducing the contribution to climate change.

Council said in its long-term plan agenda that for both climate-related topics, public support for the more ambitious preferred options was high – with more than 80 per cent of responses in favour.

Through the long-term plan, council will replace or convert all 320 existing buses to be run by electricity.

About 169 new buses will be added to the network to address capacity increases. These buses will also be electric.

The council has committed to decarbonising the public transport fleet, expecting to reduce annual emissions by about 74 per cent by 2031.

The cost of electrifying all public transport is set to be $1.1b spread over 10 years, as the long-term plan details.

Council also committed to restoring regional parks to native bush, hoping to reduce annual emissions from grazing by 71 per cent by 2031.

Livestock is set to be removed from 1350 hectares of the 2083ha of grazed land in regional parks.

The restoration of regional parks will have a rates impact of $11.81 for each ratepayer, each annum over 10 years. The first three years will be funded by the government’s low carbon acceleration fund [LCAF], reducing the rates impact significantly to an average of $672k yearly.

GWRC declared a climate emergency in 2019. As part of its response, it set a carbon-neutral target by 2030.

Alongside carbon neutrality, GRWC set an even more ambitious target to become climate positive by 2035.

GWRC chairman Daran Ponter said at the beginning of the submission period that climate change was no longer the elephant in the room.

“It’s out there riding on our roads and rails with emissions in its wake”.

Now, councillors are celebrating what they hope will set the region up for the future.

Councillor Penny Gaylor, who is chairwoman of the environment committee, said she was proud council was taking a step to do the right thing.

“Over the four long-term plans I have been a part of making, I have seen a shift in how not just our councils are responding to climate change – but how our communities are understanding, accepting, and supporting the work of councils.”

She said the strong ambition within the plan came down to the fact that staff and communities believed deeply in working to mitigate climate change.

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