|Policy||Policy Description||Our Rating|
|Climate Change||Climate change is real, and there is overwhelming evidence that it is caused by human activity, rather than by some natural process. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change latest report documents that average temperatures have warmed by over 0.7ºC in the last 100 years. Some of the predicted impacts of a moderate rate of climate change for Waikato include sea level rise, changes in average temperatures and a change in weather patterns (wetter and warmer). Climate scientists estimate that Waikato's temperature could be up to 3°C warmer and 20% wetter with more varied rainfall patterns in 70 to 100 years.
Extreme weather events are likely to become more frequent or severe causing:
• Coastal inundation and associated damage;
• Infrastructure and property damage - replacing or repairing damaged roads, bridges, houses and stormwater drains; and
• Increased soil erosion and loss of soil nutrients.
Warmer temperatures could also cause the following impacts:
• An increase in demand for air-conditioning systems and therefore for electricity in summer - resulting in greater ‘carbon emissions’;
• Increased mortality rates;
• Increased competition from exotic species as well as the spread of disease and pests, affecting both fauna and flora;
• Reduction in some critical habitats, increasing the risk of localised extinction; and
• Damage to transport infrastructure - buckled railway lines and rutted roads, with associated disruption and repair costs.
Much more severe impacts are likely as time progresses, and some of these relate to the ultimate habitability of different parts of the globe leading to food and water shortages, and mass migrations. Australia will experience a longer return period between rainfall events, leading to more droughts, more wildfires, more floods, and less potable water. Other areas will face mass starvation as traditional water supplies dry up or severe weather events cause more large scale natural disasters such as the flooding currently going on in Pakistan. New Zealand and its economy will not be able to isolate itself from these events.
Benefits may occur such as better crop growing conditions, faster pasture growth and new crops however, these beneficial effects will only be temporary if we don’t reduce our greenhouse emissions.
Even though WRC is a member of the ‘Communities for Climate Protection Programme’ they need to take a leading role in the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. One simple solution is to ‘walk the talk’ by implementing in-house polices to show the community how it can be done. For example a lower emission vehicle fleet, converting to energy efficient heating, offsetting carbon emissions and by ensuring any future development is ‘carbon neutral’ (uses renewable energies, energy efficient and offsets any materials etc that is not).
WRC Regional Energy Strategy promotes energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy. However, their current Annual Plan and the Long Term Community Consultation Plan do not reference this plan. This is considered a priority and should be developed with Territorial Authorities and the community in the foreseeable future.
In his book Requiem for a Species, Australian academic Clive Hamilton argues that placing most of the emphasis for carbon dioxide on personal actions is a government cop-out, because most of the problem needs to be fixed at source, by changing industry practices. He is particularly critical of ‘clean coal.’ I am interested in further exploring this idea, and in particular the ability of Regional Councils to require more direct leadership from central government to direct changes to industrial practices.
|Transport Priorities||From a regional governance role, I would take the approach that the best solution would have to be the one showing the greatest long-term benefits for environmental sustainability and public good. As such if I were part of a decision-making body these are the principles I would follow:
What is the most sustainable approach?
• From an energy efficiency perspective?
• In relation to the desirability for regulatory lead to support development of carbon neutral technologies?
• In relation to inner urban air quality? e.g. diesel buses result in more particulates, but full buses result in fewer cars, offsetting the particulate emissions of the bus. The worst air quality outcome would be empty buses, causing the same number of cars, but more road congestion and total emissions.
What would be the best way of encouraging more use of public transport and less dependence on private vehicles?
• Would running an after-hours service (over time) be likely to generate more passengers? This seems likely. (It is clear that not running an after hours bus service would be the best way to ensure zero patronage!)
• Could we use smaller more user-friendly buses on some routes to get a better match between the size of the vehicle and passenger numbers?
• Could we look at running promotions to get people on and familiar with bus travel, perhaps in conjunction with local events being run by the city council?
We know that global oil reserve extraction has passed its peak, and the future for fossil fuels is not bright. I am also of the view that the Regional Council should take a lead role (and set an example) in reducing any Council-linked greenhouse gas emissions to the greatest extent possible. These factors alone argue strongly for a future with less dependence of private vehicles and more public transport. I can confirm that I would support this general direction, because this general direction is clearly consistent with the intent of the RMA.
|Waste and Recycling||I do not consider this to be a core function of WRC.
I would like to take this opportunity to state that the current Waste Officers of WRC do a fantastic job in this area with such limited resources. The Regional Waste Strategy includes a number of well thought out methodologies that support waste and recycling services in Hamilton. I would advocate for the continuation of this work and would also look at any other opportunities to support this brilliant team of people.
|Housing Development||I do not consider this to be a function of the regional council.
I consider the core responsibility of WRC to be oversight of environmental and natural resources in a manner that ensures their long-term health (environmental sustainability). Therefore, any housing development plan that WRC encourages, advocates for etc must be undertaken in accordance with this principle.
As per question two I would advocate for the best solution which, would have to be the one showing the greatest long-term benefits for environmental sustainability and public good.
|Managing Resources||I consider the topmost statutory responsibility of WRC to be oversight of environmental and natural resources in a manner that ensures their long-term health.
In some cases this phrase means regulatory controls are in place to ensure the protection of resources that have not been degraded, and in other cases this means seeking to repair damage to environmental services or ecosystems that has already been done, or is continuing to be done.
One of our biggest challenges over the next few years will be slowing and reversing the degradation of the environment that has been occurring as a result of intensification of agriculture.
Urban encroachment. Historically urban centres were located close to productive soils as a necessity. However, over time due to population demands urban centres have slowly encroached onto productive soils. Hamilton City is a prime example of this as in the middle of last century a number of orchards were located on the eastern outskirts of Hamilton and in 2010 the past landuse is only evident by the names of the roads or development; Peachgrove Road and Orchard Park.
Subdivision over high-quality soils. From 2001 – thirty to forty percent of subdivisions occurred on land with the highest productive capabilities. This subdivided land could be considered to be no longer productive. However, some properties may be used for intensive agricultural or horticultural purposes which generally require much more fertiliser, water and energy.
Poor water quality is directly related to nutrient loading on the land.
Monitoring results from sites along the Waikato River clearly shows (WRC website) that the greatest decline in water quality occurs directly after leaving Lake Taupo. Across the reminder of the region the decline is relatively constant. This suggests that urban catchments are having little to no impact on water quality, particularly when compared with the wide-scale impact of intensive agriculture.
Therefore, the main causes of poor water quality in the region are considered to be associated with agricultural practices, and primarily come down to the discharges of nutrients, sediment, and microbes. However, in saying that it is important to note that since agriculture is an important part of our economy, the smartest methods of reducing the impact of farming on water quality will need to also ensure that agriculture itself remains a viable economic activity.
In my view, there are many examples of cases where good environmental practice works out as either equivalent to, or less expensive than, current practices. For example, correcting problems that cause massive topsoil erosion losses also mean that organic-rich topsoil is retained, and new soil organic matter does not need to be trucked into the farm system. Often the main barrier to change may be the natural inertia of traditional farming habits, rather than any good economic argument. Quantifying the real cost and benefits is an area where WRC’s environmental economists could shed useful light.
A publication by WRC titled The Condition of Rural Water and Soil in the Waikato Region dedicates a chapter to what WRC is doing, what they are going to do in the future and what other interested parties are doing to improve water quality. It also includes a chapter on what farmers can do to improve water quality. Whilst these chapters provide an excellent mixture of non regulatory instruments for controlling ‘non point source’ discharges on agricultural land WRC without doubt needs to include regulatory controls that prevent nutrients applied to agricultural from entering waterways.
|City Centre Garden Place||I do not consider this to be a function of the regional council.|