Responding to Climate Change & Sustainability
Climate change is causing the earth to warm, sea levels to rise and weather patterns to become disturbed. A 2019 Waimakariri community survey showed over 70 percent of our community are either concerned or very concerned about climate change.
In Waimakariri, apart from coastal inundation, the effects of climate change will mean over time we experience more extreme weather more frequently. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere – mitigation – and dealing with rising sea levels – adaptation – will become increasingly important matters before the Council during the 2020s.
Longer hot and dry summers, milder winters with less snowfall, less annual rainfall, higher winds, and a gradual warming between 0.7 degrees and 3 degrees by 2090 causing sea level rise will become the norm.
These changes will put core infrastructure at risk, change how we plan for development, require a rethink about where and how we build, what goods we consume and overall, how we act and contribute to the issue.
As an organisation the Council wants to and will likely be directed more by the Government to work with the community in becoming more sustainable, improving our environment, and in climate change mitigation and adaptation.
Late last year we sought community comment on a draft Climate Change Policy which committed the Council to consider climate change in all decision-making and work programmes, and regularly measure corporate emissions. It has been finalised as our ‘statement of intent’ in this area.
The Council has committed to prepare an Organisational Sustainability Strategy and Climate Change Response Strategy and work is underway on this. At the start of the Council term a new Council portfolio was established – Climate Change and Sustainability – to signal the importance of this issue.
This Strategy will become the guiding document for how Waimakariri tackles climate change and shape how we work together to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions to minimise future harm, and adapt to the ongoing effects of climate change.
It will also look at how we both mitigate effects and adapt – specifically around core assets like water supply, storm and wastewater services, flood protection; and wider community issues such as biodiversity loss¸ tackling longer term managed retreat as well as addressing the social and economic impacts of climate change - which may hit coastal communities and our primary sector the hardest.
As our national economy and businesses shift towards a low-emissions future by 2050 the focus of the Council needs to support this and more Government direction in this area is anticipated. The cost of acting; investing in a sustainable future for the Council as an organisation and the community overall, is over the long term demonstrably less than the cost of taking no action.
For the LTP this will affect the decisions we make and where we focus our attention. For example, this could include making business decisions that lower Council’s emissions, as well as advancing projects that enable climate-friendly behaviour such as additional Park & Ride facilities, or providing more bike racks around town centres and Council facilities so as to encourage alternatives to single-occupant car trips.
We have developed a programme of work called Arohatia te awa (Cherish the river) where we have allocated over $1 million in this LTP to enhance the habitat of our waterways and provide connections along our waterways for the community to access and care for our lowland streams and rivers.
We also have a role to play in working with businesses to encourage climate-friendly infrastructure (such as partnering with Meridian Energy to install charging stations) in our town centres as well as helping our communities act more sustainably. The issue of climate change is a global one in nature but one that will be addressed through small changes to our individual daily routines through the decisions we make. The Council wants to play our part.
The consultation for the Draft Long Term Plan has now finished. The Council will now consider all feedback as well as holding public hearings and deliberations in May. The Long Term Plan will be adopted by Council in June.