Climate Change Resilience: Local Council’s Responsibility

That WDC has not shown an understanding of sustainability is less surprising than what appears to be a lack of understanding of it’s role or even procedural rules by which to operate. I have watched with usual amusement the various dramas around the TPPA submission saga involving local citizens and their elected officials. Of the issues brought up during the debate, I’ll address only two.

First of all, to state the obvious, the “walk-out” did more to raise awareness in our community about the TPPA than any other effort over the last nine months. Congratulations to those ambulatory councillors for getting the TPPA onto the front page TWICE for everyone to see, and ensuring protracted coverage by our local news media. Good on you.

Second, and if I am wrong please correct me (especially those councilors who have made the claim), climate change IS, in large part, the responsibility of local government. My understanding is that central government has placed the responsibility of climate change adaptation (head for the hills!) and resilience (brace yourselves!) with local government.

For all intents and purposes, adaptation and resilience are the only responses that any government of any size anywhere in the world can make to address climate change.

The clear message sent to all those paying attention to the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference in December 2009, is that there is not sufficient political will internationally to do anything significant to address the causes of climate change. Since then, the dialogue around the topic has changed from one of avoidance and mitigation to one of adaptation and resilience.

To use a medical analogy, the discussion has shifted from treatment to hospice.

It is now acknowledged that there will be rising levels of human pain and suffering across the globe due to increasing incidences of extreme weather events. It is already happening. It has been happening for decades. The data has been collected and analyzed. The results are in, and they confirm what we all have been observing from personal experience over the last 30+ years.

Northland recently experienced historic flooding. Not long ago it experienced extreme drought.

So when WDC councilors suggest that climate change is not the responsibility of local government it makes me highly concerned for the health and safety of myself, my family, my property, my neighbours, and the future prospects of a city with a major river and a coast.

Highly concerned, yes, but sadly not at all surprised. After all, this is a body that believes the best way to manage a beach ravaged by increasingly strong onshore winds is to use heavy equipment and diesel fuel to push sand back into the Tasman Sea.

Nearly all of the efforts we have made since arriving in Whanganui almost four years ago have been aimed at improving the resilience of our community. As regular readers of this column will be aware, our work focuses mainly on building resilience to rising energy prices, although we also dabble in low-input/high-productivity food production.

As time passes and the radical views of some councilors become more apparent, I find myself becoming increasing concerned about WDC’s ability-or even willingness-to protect our community. I, for one, am not holding my breath for leadership to emerge on this issue. Instead I am taking my family and heading for the hills.


Peace, Estwing

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