Chair’s report – Corvid-19 is changing everything

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I am sure I have no need to tell you that we are living in a difficult time.

So far locally we have been shielded from the direct effects of the Covid-19 virus but throughout the world we are seeing the effects that the virus is having on health systems and communities.

And the economic effects are already being felt.

At a local board level we are also feeling the effects. Last weekend I planned to attend five different public gatherings. Four of them were cancelled.

Further cancellations have also happened. I have recently heard of the cancellation or postponement of the Titirangi Festival of Music, the Ethkick soccer tournament, the Ecofest festival and the board’s own Eats and Beats in Glen Eden. And local libraries and recreation centres have shut on an interim basis.

Social distancing is critical and the reasons for it are clear.

Because of this the local board is changing the way that we perform our functions.

We can reassure you that council remains open for business, which includes our essential services such as rubbish and recycling. This situation is unprecedented and fast moving, and changes may happen from time to time. But we will keep you informed.

Social media will be increasingly important and I intend to use our facebook page to allow for communication of ideas and Council news. If you have not done so already please like the board’s facebook page.

The way we conduct our formal meetings will be changed and will be more digital than physical. We have cancelled our next meeting.

Auckland Council is planning ahead so that the essential services we provide continue to be delivered to Aucklanders. We have a crisis management response underway looking at continuity of our essential services and to support our staff as COVID-19 develops.

Please look after yourselves and your families and your neighbours.

As our Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said be strong, and be kind and we will be ok.

Water shortage

Second up in terms of major problems our area is facing …

Last month I referred to the Auckland drought and the need to preserve water.  And after writing my report and before our last meeting it rained!  I should obviously write about these issues more often.

But we are not out of the woods yet.  Although there has been rain it has been intermittent and not sufficient to resolve matters.  Dam levels are at a healthy 62% at the time of writing although this is down from about 70% a month ago.

And the reason why they are so healthy is that Watercare has been using Waikato water as much as possible.  It is estimated that if it was not for this the dams would be 25% full and then we would all be facing a crisis.

And the weather patterns are, thanks to global warming, changing.  We are going to have to find long term solutions to this problem.

Waitakere Hospital

The Henderson Massey local board chairperson Chris Carter arranged a briefing for local board members out west from senior managers at the Waitemata Health Board.  As well as a presentation on Corovirus we were told of the Board’s future plans for Waitakere Hospital.

The hospital provides some current provision of services but many more services are provided at North Shore Hospital.  The Waitemata DHB has the largest population of any DHB in the country.

The west has special requirements.  We are a poorer area and because of this health needs are more intense.  We also have areas of intense growth.

The Henderson-Massey and Waitakere Ranges combined population makes us bigger than Dunedin, Tauranga and Hamilton.  And the large geographical area makes travelling to the North Shore a long and stressful process.

The hospital needs to become a full acute hospital site capable of handling all sorts of medical issues.  This will take pressure off Auckland Hospital and North Shore Hospital.  It will also allow people to be treated locally and reduce the stress of travel for families

I understand that a decision is to be made in the near future by the Government.

The local board chairs for the west intend to advocate strongly in support of full development of the Waitakere Hospital and to make representations directly to the Minister of Health.

Watercare hearing

With Saffron Toms and Ken Turner I recently presented the local board’s submissions on the Waima Watercare application.

The evidence has now all been filed and some interesting issues have become prominent. 

The most significant is kauri dieback.  The fear has been expressed by a number of experts including Council’s expert that the earth works in an area that has Kauri dieback spores will mean that the spores are spread throughout the area.  Every time it rains spores will be washed through the valley in an area that has significant groves of magnificent Kauri.

And on this the expert evidence, from both Council and from experts briefed by the opponents, which interestingly enough includes the Department of Conservation, is terrifying.

The basic premise as I understand it is that the huge amount of earthworks will accelerate the spread of Kauri dieback.  Water trickling down broken up soil is the best way to achieve its spread.  To stop the spread would require a rather large structure resembling a moat.  And the area downstream is home to some of the most significant groves of Kauri in the region.

I wondered what a safe worksite would look like.  I suggested that Watercare would have to construct a moat around the site to gather the water and then pipe it to the Manukau which is quite a few kilometers away.

My concluding comment to the hearing was as follows:

“In assessing the merits of this application the board’s concern is that the risk of spreading kauri dieback through the valley is far too high and the potential consequences catastrophic.  The local board remains opposed to the application.  In fact based on the expert evidence our opposition is now more determined.”

The panel has recommended that the various experts caucus and present a brief to the panel indicating what is agreed to and what is disputed.

The valley immediately below the site is the home of some of the most significant and magnificent Kauri out west.  I trust the panel will take all necessary care in determining this application.

To add to this the planned mitigation is not enough.  To mitigate the clear felling of a forest would require funding for a hundred year plan.

This discovery has reinforced my view that the Local Board was correct in its opposition to the plant.  We will see in the future what the commissioners conducting the hearing think.

Waitakere Heritage Area Gateway Sign project

This has been on the Local Board’s work programme for a while and until recently progress has been slow.  But the board recently had a very welcome presentation by a new staff member Keren Alleyne and by Claire Walker, a contractor also recently involved in the project.

The board’s thinking is that some form of artwork is preferrable to signs, that a generic design with local variations would be better, and that the artwork should act as markers on the edge of the Waitakere Ranges Heritage Area.  In terms of the artwork a suggestion is that for cost and durability reasons laser cut steel could be an option.

We want consultation with Te Kawarau a Maki and with local ratepayers groups including the group of residents who had worked on the proposal to occur.  We will hopefully then be in a position to work out selection of an artist to provide us with a concept for the project.

Funding will be sought from different sources as to do it properly would be beyond the means of the local board.

Annual Plan and Local Board Agreement consultation

This is now under way.  The one particular proposal that affects the  Waitakere Ranges local board area is the future of the septic tank pump out service.  This is a service paid for by residents with older style septic tanks and ensures that every three years they will have their tanks pumped out.  The way I see it there are two benefits, we get the advantage of scale and fees can be kept reasonable for everyone, and secondly all relevant tanks are pumped out.  To my way of thinking there is a significant risk to the environment if the scheme is discontinued and this is why the current scheme, with a regional subsidy, should be continued.  After all we are dealing with the Waitakere Ranges Heritage Area and special care should be exercised.

We have also been talking to local communities about our three year plan and what people think should be in it.  So far there have been two drop in sessions, a meeting with the Trustees of the Glen Eden Mosque, and a meeting with the Methodist congregation.  Feedback was received during Waitangi day at Hoani Waititi Marae and on line and further meetings are planned although adjusting to Corovirus is making this problematic.

By all means let us know your views.  What do you think is important for our area in the next three years and what should the local board be doing?

Kauri Karnival

After receiving advice Council decided to proceed with the Kauri Karnival.  The risk was assessed to be low and the nature of the event, with crowds spread out and no identified people facing threats was not the sort that demanded cancellation.

Numbers were down on last year, which given the circumstances was understandable.  But the event delivered top quality music and some very interesting stalls as well as a number of activities which were child friendly and child pleasing.

Shadbolt House

This has been on the local board’s work plan for a few years.  The Going West Trust has expressed an interest in converting the house into a writer’s residence.  The house was originally purchased by Waitakere City Council with this intent.  The Colin McCahon House shows what can be done with this sort of model.

Staff are being cautious and have raised health and safety concerns.  I am confident that this can be taken care of however and that working with the trust they can be overcome.

There is a feeling that Titirangi’s art sector is more than adequate.  I am a fan of it being exceptional.

Remember March 15

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Twelve months ago the unthinkable happened to Aotearoa New Zealand.  A right wing extremist armed with weapons of mass destruction went on a rampage through a Christchurch mosque and killed 51 human beings and injured another 49.

I can recall the day well.  I had been to Aotea Square at Auckland where thousands and thousands of young people protested against climate change and how it was destroying their future.  Their demands for urgent action cannot be ignored.

Then on the way back on the train I tuned into twitter and saw disturbing tweets that talked about an incident in Christchurch.

The news became worse and worse.  A facebook live streamed video ignited social media.  It was an attack based on prejudice against race and religion and contained all the nutty disturbing thought processes that the internet has been able to bastardise.

The country’s response was swift.  Armed police appeared on the street.  And people joined together.

Jacinda Ardern responded in a most human way, by declaring that they are us and we are one.  She captured the country’s revulsion to what had happened in a very simple but perfect way.

The next morning I was at the Ethkick football competition, a locally organised competition where teams from different communities join together and play the beautiful game.  The organisers had thought about cancelling the event but had decided that it was important that it proceed.  And it was so reassuring to be part of a diverse crowd joined together to celebrate what we share and what makes us distinct.

And over the next week many kiwis reached out to our muslim brothers and sisters.  A group of us westies visited the Mosque in West Auckland to pay our respects and to show solidarity.  This simple act of solidarity was repeated throughout the country.

Since then the gun laws have been tightened.  Some of the parties are paying political games with the second tranche of changes but changes are coming.  Our security infrastructure has been beefed up.

And the shooter has failed in his attempt to ignite a race war.  New Zealand is still a peaceful place, albeit somewhat older and still scarred by the event.

Kia kaha to the local Muslim community.  We are one.

Reprinted from the Standard.

Chair’s report February 2020 – Waitangi day, Watercare and our Greenways Plan

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This is my first report for the new year. Already the year is off to a flying start and probably the same as for the rest of you the holidays are a distant memory …


We are in the middle of a gloriously warm summer. Also dry, too dry for a number of westies.

At the time of writing we have had a record 40 days without rain. It has been glorious but some locals are starting to feel the pinch.

Although the west coast dams are reasonably full, about 70% full on average, the water distribution system has been thrown out of kilter by the need to regulate water flows inn filling stations used by private water suppliers to fill up their tankers. This coupled with unprecedented demand means that delivery times have stretched out to months. And a number of people who rely on rain water are under considerable stress, as the warm weather and lack of supplies has caused their water reserves to dwindle.

Titirangi itself is fine thanks to the reticulated water supply system. But parts of Cornwallis, Huia, Karekare, Piha, Te Henga, Waitakere and Waiatarua are struggling.

To help out Auckland Council is investigating a number of options. Tanks are proposed for Piha, Cornwallis and Waitakere where people can come and fill up 20 liter containers for free.

West Wave is offering free showers to locals. The local board has suggested that we need to investigate other facilities closer to affected areas and this is being looked into.

Council is also investigating the use of milk tankers filled with water placed at strategic sites to speed up the private tanker filling process. The quicker they can be refilled and put back into circulation the better.

So what can locals do? Please go easy on the water consumption. Current consumption levels are very high and there is no end to the current dry weather in sight. The reticulated urban area is not struggling yet but a continuation of this weather and it will.

And dare I say it but more extreme heat and fractured weather patterns are exactly as foretold by climate scientists. Our climate is changing. We need to look after it and protect it.

So go easy on your water consumption and check on your neighbours, particularly those out west in the unreticulated areas. And go easy on the planet. She is the only one we have.

Greenways plan

The water issue leads neatly into our Greenways Plan implementation.

Recently Australia has been burning. Five million hectares burned. Sydney has had dense clogging smoke for weeks. New South Wales has already lost an estimated 30% of its koala population.

The fires were only extinguished by unseasonal flooding.

It is not even peak bushfire time which normally starts in April.

Australia is not the only country to experience severe adverse weather patterns and consequences. The cause is clear, increased temperatures and changing rain patterns caused by climate change, just as predicted by numerous scientific studies.

Phil Goff recently released the Mayoral Budget Proposal and including measures to address climate change.  These include further tree planting, investment in a decarbonised Council fleet, and more funding for schools and adaption.

I believe that the proposal needs to go much further.  It should encourage low emission vehicles, rapidly increase high-quality cycling and walking infrastructure, and help develop decentralised energy networks.

The last Council introduced special rates for water quality and environmental issues. These rates will raise $452 million and $311 million respectively over ten years. Most locals were very supportive.

Maybe it is time for Auckland Council to propose an urgent Climate Change special rate.
The local board has completed the local Greenways Plan. It sets out a blueprint of how our walkways and cycleways could look.

But we don’t have the funding to do any more than a small proportion of the plan.

If we are going to be carbon neutral by 2050 then by 2030 the introduction of petrol cars into New Zealand’s fleet will be rare. Which is why alternatives to driving, including public transport and walking and cycling will need to be nurtured as much as possible.

Council needs to be brave and urgently start investing in infrastructure to get ready for our future.

The argument for a dedicated fund so that we can get our city ready for a post petroleum future is I believe especially strong and especially urgent.

Resource consent for Waima treatment plant

This is for hearing soon. The Local Board intends to present submissions to the hearing by way of local board feedback. Our mandate is to advocate for and express the interests of local people.

To repeat our position:

  1. We oppose the application in its current form.
  2. We note the proposed development is in the Waitākere  Ranges Heritage Area and is adjacent to regional parkland and our view is that it is inconsistent with the objectives of the Waitākere  Ranges Heritage Area Act 2008 as well as the Muddy Creek Local Area Plan.
  3. We have invited Watercare to renew consultation with the Waima community to locate a site and a plant design that will satisfy local expectations.
  4. We have also invited Watercare to investigate repositioning of the plant to the sludge site close to the Nihotupu lake as previously identified by the Local Board.
  5. As an alternative option we have suggested Watercare should consider repositioning the site in an urban industrial area such as Spam Farm in Glendene which is more suitable for the location of a large industrial complex of this sort.
  6. We are concerned that the plant design requires the destruction of 3.5 hectares of regenerating sub tropical rainforest that is home to many indigenous species including a previously unidentified wasp and that the project will require up to 118 heavy vehicle movements a day on Titirangi’s narrow and fragile roads.
  7. We support the restoration and repurposing of the Nihotupu Filter Station which is a scheduled heritage building at the entrance to Exhibition Drive
  8. We support a significant restoration fund being established should the new plant be constructed in the Waima area.

Hoani Waititi Marae strategic hui

The three local boards were invited to a very important meeting at Hoani Waititi Marae to hear and learn more about Māori aspirations and visions for West Auckland. Eynon Delamere on behalf of the Marae set out the Marae’s vision, particularly for the establishment of a Wananga at the Marae precinct.

My personal view is that the argument for a Wananga is strong. The Marae has a well established involvement in education. It started off with the Kohanga Reo, then developed its Kura, and there is a timely logic for a Wananga to now be developed.

The site is ideal. It is near the Sunnyvale Railway Station. The vision of the trustees is that graduates from the Te Kooti Rangatahi (Marae Youth Court) can leave the wharenui and walk straight across to the Wananga.

The land is local reserve land. This local board has a major desire to preserve our greenspace so we will need to carefully consider the future use of the land and the optimal design for the area. We will also need to seek certainty of funding for the project. But the Wananga represents for the Marae a significant and we should consider it carefully.

Waitangi day

Waipareira Trust and Hoani Waititi marae have for a few years now held an annual Waitangi day event. The day has gone from strength to strength. Like Waitangi days nationally the local event has become more and more of a celebration. As the breaches of the Treaty of Waitangi that have occurred are acknowledged and the resolution process advanced the sense of grievance has subsided and the desire to celebrate the day has grown.

The local event starts with a powhiri. This year we had Cabinet Minister Carmel Sepuloni, local MP Deborah Russell, local Councillors, Shane Henderson, Linda Cooper and Tracy Mulholland, the three local local board chairs, Chris Carter, Kay Thomas and myself and local board members Mark Allen and Michelle Clayton attend and be present on the Manuhiri side.

The event felt very symbolic. Just as on the first Waitangi Day we were representatives of the Crown and Eynon Delamere and others including Hare Rua, chair of the Kura, and other significant members of the Marae were representatives of Tangata Whenua.

Following the powhiri the festival itself kicked off. The quality of the artists that have been recruited was outstanding. They included acts of the calibre of Kora, Ardija and Katchafire.

The vibe of the day was outstanding and erstwhile combatants made up and just got on.

Needless to say I am astounded by the quality of the day. It is a real celebration event.

It is funded through some local board grants, money from the licensing trusts and significant contributions from Waipareira and Hoani Waititi marae. There were perhaps 40,000 people present. I think it is time for Council to think about significant Regional funding as it is a major event.

One further suggestion I have is that Auckland Transport makes public transport free on Waitangi day. There is a train station within 10 minutes walk of where the festival was held. To help overcome parking issues and as a gesture of good will and support free public transport to the event could be provided.

The 2020-2023 local board plan

We are now in the process of drafting this term’s local board plan. The plan is a strategic three year plan that is intended to drive the local board’s activity on the next three years.

We welcome all feedback. So far we have sought feedback from a number of people at the Waitangi celebration at Hoani Waititi Marae, from a special session with the trustees at the Masjid-E-Bilal mosque at Glen Eden, and from a session held at the Te Henga community day.

At the end of this meeting we intend to allow a further opportunity for locals to have their say on the future of our local board area. But feedback is welcome through any means.

The formal consultation will be during June and July this year and it is anticipated that the plan will be finalised this October.

Friends of Arataki

Recently Sandra Coney, Michelle Clayton and myself attended the Friends of Arataki annual general meetinng.

The organisation celebrated its 25th anniversary of its creation. It engages with the staff at Arataki and really enhances the facility. Its current major project is a canopy walk to open up enjoyment of the local forest while at the same time protecting Kauri from Kauri dieback.

Congratulations to Yvonne Pivac and the executive for the work that they do. I look forward to the day that the canopy walk is opened.

Local track reopening

Most should be completed this year. Three local tracks are either reopened or the work is nearing completion. A further six is anticipated to be completed by mid year and five others by the end of the year. One track, Tinopai Reserve, is to be reopened early next year.

Three tracks are to be closed permanently.

The end of petrol driven cars

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The Government has set us a strong challenge, for our country to become carbon neutral by 2050.

The rationale is simple. Increasing levels of CO2 and other greenhouse gasses are cooking the planet. And we are beyond the theory stage. We are now seeing in real time the effects as predicted by the overwhelming majority of climate scientists. Whether it is the South Pole melting, Pacific Islands disappearing under rising seas or out of control forest fires in Australia the events are happening just as predicted.

Australia provides a particular insight into the future of our world.

Over the past few months Australia has been burning. Five million hectares has burned. Sydney has had dense clogging smoke for weeks. New South Wales has already lost an estimated 30% of its koala population.

It is not even peak bushfire time which normally starts in April. The need to avert even hotter temperatures that will cause fires to be even more catastrophic has to be abundantly clear.

If we are going to be carbon neutral by 2050 then by 2030 the introduction of petrol cars into New Zealand’s fleet will be rare. Which is why alternatives to driving, including public transport and walking and cycling will need to be nurtured and supported as much as possible.

The Government and all Councils need to be brave and urgently start investing in infrastructure to get ready for our future.

Because we have to stabilise the level of CO2 in the atmosphere, and if possible decrease it. With billions of trees and clean transport systems we can do it. But if we don’t it is clear we will wreck our one and only planet.

If you want an overseas example of what needs to be done then check out a recent announcement by Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party. Yes you read that right. He announced that by 2035 only electric vehicles will be allowed into the United Kingdom fleet. And car manufacturers are screaming. From Gwyn Topham and Gillian Ambrose at the Guardian:

The government’s move to bring forward a ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars to 2035 has been attacked by manufacturers as a “date without a plan”.

The policy, which will now come into effect five years earlier and include hybrid vehicles, was announced as Boris Johnson launched the forthcoming UN COP 26 climate summit.

While green groups welcomed the news and urged the government to set an even earlier date, motoring organisations said the UK was unprepared for electric alternatives by 2035.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders said the move risked undermining sales of cleaner, hybrid cars now, and the government needed to come up with a sustainable plan.

The SMMT chief executive, Mike Hawes, said: “It’s extremely concerning that government has seemingly moved the goalposts for consumers and industry on such a critical issue. Manufacturers are fully invested in a zero emissions future, with some 60 plug-in models now on the market and 34 more coming in 2020.

“However, with current demand for this still expensive technology still just a fraction of sales, it’s clear that accelerating an already very challenging ambition will take more than industry investment. A date without a plan will merely destroy value today.

“We need to hear how government plans to fulfil its ambitions in a sustainable way, one that safeguards industry and jobs, allows people from all income groups and regions to adapt and benefit, and, crucially, does not undermine sales of today’s low emission technologies, including popular hybrids, all of which are essential to deliver air quality and climate change goals now.”

Believe me I am no fan of Boris Johnson. But he is right. If there is a date when your country is meant to become carbon neutral then at an earlier date diesel and petrol vehicles will have to stop entering the fleet. And at that time people need to understand this will be their last petrol or diesel vehicle.

My wife and I own two cars, a Toyota Hybrid which is very fuel efficient and a small Mazda that also uses little fuel although more than the Hybrid. Our next car will be fully electric. It is the least we can do.

But it is impractical to think that as a country we can replace every existing vehicle with a new electric vehicle. For a start the carbon sunk into the manufacturing of a new electric vehicle is too much for the world to sustain. Carbon neutrality has to mean carbon neutrality from all sources, manufacturing as well as transport.

And this is why it is vital that we rebuild our cities so that car dependance is reduced. The big Asian cities have done it. They have high densities and prodigious public transport systems, particularly in Tokyo and the larger Chinese cities.

Auckland needs to do the same. The City Rail Link should have been started years ago. Light rail to the airport is a no brainer, as is light rail on the North Western motorway and conversion of the North Shore Busway into a light rail line cannot be far away.

And we need to get on and build walkways and cycleways. If we have to cancel a couple of big motorway projects to do so then we should do it. As an example Penlink will cost in the vicinity of $315 million. A lot of walkways and cycleways could be built for that amount.

Even the Herald’s Heather Du Plessis Allan is urging the Government to be braver. She appears to have had a change of heart. Last September she was saying that belief in Climate Change had become a religion and wondered what the problem was if some people don’t want to stop driving the gas guzzlers or want to keep eating red meat. Then a couple of weeks later she thought that the climate change “frenzy” was terrifying children and she expressed cynicism about “how organic” this youth-led movement is.

But she has recently chided the Government and asked it to be as brave as Boris Johnson in the UK. It is good to see that Heather now realises we are in the middle of a crisis.

She claims that the Government is a “more crappy” version of National. That is really unfair. National did its best to undermine the Emissions Trading Scheme that was introduced by the last Labour Government, dithered and held back on the City Rail Link as long as it could, and dithered for a decade on making the brave decisions relating to electricity production.

She also does not mention NZ First once. The last time I checked they were a part of the Government, and unfortunately, something on a hand brake on Labour’s and the Green’s more progressive ambitions.

But she is right. If we are going to be carbon neutral then we need to have a discussion on the end of petrol and diesel vehicles entering the fleet and what we will do instead.

The climate crisis discussion has now concluded with an overwhelming consensus that we have a problem. We now need to discuss the solutions. And most importantly we need to start implementing them. Now.

What Auckland Council needs to do about climate change

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Australia is currently burning. In the state of Victoria it is estimated that 200,000 hectares of forest has burned. Nationally the figure is 5 million hectares. Sydney has had dense smoke clogging the city for weeks. The Blue mountains have been severely affected. The State of New South Wales has already lost an estimated 30% of its koala population.

It is not even peak bushfire time which normally starts in April.

And it is getting worse.

NSW Rural Fire Service commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons has said that it is “absolutely” the state’s worst bushfire season on record. He also said this:

We’ve seen extraordinary fire behaviour. What we really need is meaningful rain, and we haven’t got anything in the forecast at the moment that says we’re going to get drought-breaking or fire-quenching rainfall.”

Australia is not the only country to experience unusual weather patterns and severe adverse consequences. In the United States fires in California are becoming a regular event. It is comical that Donald Trump and Barnaby Joyce are both trying to blame green policies relating to undergrowth for the fires. The cause is clear, increased temperatures and changing rain patterns caused by climate change, just as predicted by numerous scientific studies over the past few decades.

We have got to the stage where kids still at school are lecturing grown up politicians on the subject, and demanding action.

We are facing a crisis. Even the United Kingdom Conservative Government realise this. Their goal, to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, matches this country’s proposal. Jacinda Ardern has rightfully called the issue her generation’s nuclear-free moment.

Phil Goff campaigned on the issue at the last local government election. He has recently released the Mayoral Budget Proposal and the accompanying press release said this:

In last year’s 10-year Budget, $130 million was invested in a climate response fund and coastal asset management.

“However, we can’t afford to wait to take action. For that reason, in this annual budget, I am proposing urgent initiatives to demonstrate the council’s leadership in taking measures to cut its own emissions,” Phil Goff says.

“Under my proposal, we will cut our emissions by nearly 20 per cent by moving swiftly to decarbonize our vehicle fleet and shifting to sustainable energy across our community facilities.”

Other measures in the mayoral proposal include:

• $2.7 million to expand tree planting activities across the region by 50 per cent, with at least 1.5 million mainly native trees set to be planted over the next three years to absorb carbon emissions
• Investment in research to understand how the council can effectively achieve its climate goals
• Appointing an independent expert to review the provisions in the Unitary Plan and determine how it can better support climate change adaption and mitigation
• Continuing to fund climate education in our schools and communities, to empower people play a role in reducing emissions and caring for the environment

Phil Goff says, “Transport is a major contributor to carbon emissions, and my proposals to make public transport cheaper for kids, alongside continued investment in the public transport network, will increase patronage as well as reducing traffic congestion and emissions.

“Our work on climate change will complement the more than $700 million we are investing in water and environmental projects, as well as the $57 million we will spend on land for parks and open spaces over the 2020/2021 year.

Former Mayoral candidate Mark Thomas, who has strong associations with the National Party, thinks the measures are not enough. And I agree with him.

In a guest post in Newsroom he said this:

Auckland Mayor, and former Environment Minister, Phil Goff, had a chance to start a new city direction on climate change, one of his big re-election campaign priorities, when he outlined his budget plans for next year.

In doing so he repeated what he often said during the mayoral campaign: the council needs to act urgently to address climate change.

Yet the four modest climate change announcements he made won’t be fully underway until July next year and the bigger ones will take five years to implement. At a cost of $18.9m over the next five years, they represent a rounding error against total Auckland expenditure of $24 billion over the same period. The 6,000 tonnes of carbon that will be reduced by his key initiatives will cut the regions’ annual CO2 production by less than 0.2 percent.

And I also find myself agreeing with Thomas about what can and should be done. He said this:

Although Auckland’s new climate action plan may be adopted by the council in the early months of 2020, Goff said any substantive decisions and significant budget changes would have to wait for the next 10 year budget – which won’t start until July 1, 2021.

This is a strange emergency.

A more ‘urgent’ response would be to introduce an extraordinary amendment to the 10 year budget. Christchurch council did this in the years following its earthquakes. Other councils do this when either unexpected or unplanned-for events arise.

In the long-prepared draft Auckland climate action plan there are 70 actions, a number of which could be pulled into an “extraordinary” budget change.

Potential quick climate wins for Auckland, include:

– encourage large scale uptake of zero and low emission vehicles.

– make freight systems more efficient.

– rapidly increase safe, high-quality cycling and walking infrastructure

– implement the proposed climate innovation system.

– develop and deliver local and regional decentralised energy solutions

– use council property to drive innovation in renewable energy development

The last Council introduced special rates to deal with water quality issues and environmental issues, particularly Kauri dieback. These rates are calculated to raise $452 million and $311 million respectively over ten years. Most people were very supportive of these rates. Regionally 60% supported a targeted water quality rate. In the Waitakere Ranges the figure was 62%. And 70% of locals supported a Natural Environment Targeted Rate compared to the regional total of 65%.

Maybe it is time for Auckland Council to think about a Climate Change special rate, or more specifically a Greenways special rate. And rather than wait for a couple of years get it underway now using the emergency procedure.

In the Waitakere Ranges area the local board has completed our Greenways Plan. This is something that I am very proud of. It sets out a blueprint of how our walkways and cycleways could look.

But we don’t have the funding to do any more than a small proportion of the plan. The most expensive and most strategically important is the cycleway between Sunnyvale and Glen Eden running adjacent to the railway line. But this had a construction cost in the vicinity of $8 million back in 2008. You could double or triple the cost now. And our dedicated transport capital fund, which is cherished, is not nearly enough for this size project. It is currently $670,000 per year. It would take approximately 30 years to accumulate enough capital to complete it. And this is just one project of many in our Greenways list.

Other local boards have also developed Greenways Plans. The ones that I am aware of include Puketapapa, Whau and Waitemata.

If we are going to be carbon neutral by 2050 this means that by about 2030 the introduction of petrol powered cars into New Zealand’s fleet will have to be rarity. But we will not be able to afford to replace 2.4 million vehicles overnight. Which is why alternatives to driving, whether it be public transport, or walking or cycling or scootering will need to be nurtured and supported as much as possible.

So what I would like the Council is to create a dedicated Greenways rate so that our walkways and our cycleways can be built.

AT’s current plans are to spend $635 million on creating 150 km of cycleways in the city in the next ten years. No new cycleways are planned for the Waitakere Ranges area.

It is predicted that there will be a 4% modal shift because of the new cycleways. The figures are however business as usual and will not create the significant change that is needed.

When you extrapolate it the figure suggests AT will build 15 kilometers of cyclelanes a year. This year the goal was 10 kilometers and AT was not able to even do that.

There will be a multiplier effect. A contribution by NZTA should be available. And I believe it important that local boards are fully involved in decisions of which cycleways to construct.

The Mayor’s brave proposal to increase rates so that the city can improve water quality and protect Kauri was the correct one. But the argument to get a dedicated fund so that we can get our city ready for a post petroleum future is I believe especially strong and especially urgent.

In the immortal words of our Prime Minister, let’s do this.