Council updates its climate change policy, plan to come

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Ashburton District councillors have agreed to update council’s climate change policy and develop a resilience action plan to support the policy.

Council adopted its climate change policy in 2019, but a review by council staff identified little progress has been made towards the goals of the policy.

The policy is not specific on actions that will be done to achieve goals and there is also no mechanism in place to assess whether council is doing its part across the organisation.

Officers believe the current policy is still fit for purpose with minor updates, and rather than re-developing the policy, recommends the development of an action plan to meet goals.

This plan is seen as a way to monitor progress and also to provide public accountability.

In early March council received the Canterbury Climate Change Risk Assessment Technical Report, developed by Tonkin and Taylor and published by the Canterbury Mayoral Forum, and a workshop was held a week later to look at a policy review.

Councillor John Falloon said council had to be seen to be doing the right thing, but he did not agree with the need to develop a local action plan.

“It means a staff member is needed to write it – we’re just too small an organisation to be doing it.”

Councillor Diane Rawlinson said an action plan would mean council could benchmark itself and councillor Liz McMillan agreed.

Councillor Lynette Lovett said accountability was important, as was assessing what we were doing at ground level.

Ashburton mayor Neil Brown said an action plan would describe what council was doing to address climate change, how it was monitoring progress, and measuring success.

Actions, for example, could include taking gravel out of the Ashburton River to help prevent flooding, building higher stopbanks and building more dams to store water for later, he said.

Councillor Angus McKay was a vocal opponent to adopting the climate change policy update and resilience action plan.

“I’m against it. The foundation document policy has the wrong foundation to it. I’m frightened that this action plan will be built on a flawed policy.”

-By Mick Jensen