New Zealand / Environment

Auckland Council declares climate emergency

07:36 am on 12 June 2019

Auckland Council has declared a climate emergency after a meeting that had young Aucklanders front and centre pushing for the move.

Waiata Rameka-Tupe with the dead New Zealand sea turtle named Tama Kahurangi, which had a stomach full of plastic, at packed Auckland Council meeting. Photo: Photo / RNZ

Auckland Council has decided after a meeting of the Environment Committee to declare a climate emergency after several groups made submissions.

Elated activists young and old leapt to their feet and cheered an applauded as the motion was passed unanimously.

The groups had told the jam-packed meeting many of them would be voting this election and their votes depended on what councillors would decide.

Waiata Rameka-Tupe from the group Climate Conscious Mana Rangatahi brought a dead, stuffed New Zealand sea turtle to the table with her saying it had died because its stomach was filled with plastic.

Ms Rameka-Tupe said they were excited the council had made the declaration but her group warned it would be watching carefully to see they followed up with action.

Luke Wijohn from School Strike 4 Climate. Photo: Photo / RNZ

Generation Zero's Sidd Mehta, put the council on notice if they wanted their votes.

"We need to see you have skin in the game," he said.

It was not just young people speaking today, with activist Rosie Gee telling the council was time to stop using soft words like "encourage" when it comes to making change.

Policy change was the best way to limit climate change and it was needed now, she said.

Climate change activists from Extinction Rebellion Auckland at Auckland Council Environment Committee meeting. Photo: RNZ / Rowan Quinn

The Environment Committee includes every member of the council, so its decisions are binding immediately without having to go through further council processes.

Canterbury Regional Council was the first council in the country to declare a climate emergency last month, and Nelson City Council followed soon after.

Hawke's Bay Regional Council has today also announced it plans to declare a climate emergency.

Council's commitment

In a press release, the council said the declaration meant it was committing to:

  • Robustly and visibly incorporate climate change considerations into work programmes and decisions
  • Provide strong local government leadership in the face of climate change, including working with local and central government partners to ensure a collaborative response
  • Advocate strongly for greater central government leadership and action on climate change
  • Increase the visibility of our climate change work
  • Lead by example in monitoring and reducing the council's greenhouse gas emissions
  • Include climate change impact statements on all council committee reports

Councillors also voted that all reports presented by staff to decision making committees should include a climate impact statement.

All supported the declaration, but several said the council did not have a handle on the problem and would need to make major, concrete changes if the declaration was to be meaningful.