My submissions on the Zero Carbon bill

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I presented today on the Government’s Zero Carbon bill to the Parliamentary Select Committee. This is what I said …

I am the chair of Waitakere Ranges Local Board and I am proud to represent the most beautiful part of Auckland. I was previously a Waitakere City Councillor. For 4 years I was a director of Land Transport NZ

I have taken a keen interest in climate change for all of that time from a local government and central government perspective.

The overwhelming feeling I have from that period is that the world and New Zealand has drifted at a time when concerted action to address climate change was required.

It took focussed action by Pacific Island nations a couple of years ago to steel resolve for us and for others.

We are now in a crisis. Unless there is dramatic action taken then our fragile world is going to be damaged perhaps irreparably.

The local board has taken an active interest in the issue.

Climate change and sustainability are central considerations in our local board plan.

We recently declared by a majority a climate emergency for the local board area and urged Auckland Council to do the same.

I am pleased they did so unanimously.

I do not sense the need to address how important it is that we keep total global temperature increases to less than 1.5 degrees or how if we breach 2 degrees how we are in unchartered territories.

All I can say is that the Arctic is on fire and Greenland’s ice sheets are melting. This is what has been predicted will be some of the effects of climate change. And it is happening now.

By majority the board was generally fully support the aims and intention of the bill.

In relation to the proposal for a Climate Change Commission I supported Auckland Council’s requirement that commission members have extensive understanding of climate mitigation and adaption.

In relation to the proposed targets we support the non methane target. I am pleased the figure is so stark. It will focus all of our minds on what is required.

In relation to the methane I target support Auckland Council’s enhanced interim target. Methane because it is relatively short lived means that short term reductions in methane levels can give us headroom in addressing CO2 levels should that extra headroom be required.

We also support local carbon offsets. Extensive reforestation could make a significant difference. The Government’s billion tree project and the Mayor’s million tree project are examples of what can be achieved when politicians put their mind to it.

Our preference is for indigenous trees to be planted.

There are some suggestions that the targets should be legally enforceable. My 35 years as a lawyer suggests that this would pose all sorts of issues in terms of enforcement.

We support the creation of emission budgets. Society is exquisitely able to measure the fiscal performance of the country. We should be able to similarly measure the state of our environment and remind ourselves regularly what state it is in.

In relation to adaption we support amendment of the Resource Management Act and Building Act to include consideration of climate change. We agree that It is essential that climate change mitigation and adaptation are reflected and embedded throughout all acts consistently and not overlooked.

With enough trees …

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There was this fascinating recent article in the Guardian which laid out in very plain terms what we know already.  The best way to start addressing climate change and to start to absorb carbon dioxide while we work out how we are going to wean ourselves off petroleum and air travel is to plant trees, lots and lots and lots of trees.

From the article:

Planting billions of trees across the world is by far the biggest and cheapest way to tackle the climate crisis, according to scientists, who have made the first calculation of how many more trees could be planted without encroaching on crop land or urban areas.

As trees grow, they absorb and store the carbon dioxide emissions that are driving global heating. New research estimates that a worldwide planting programme could remove two-thirds of all the emissions that have been pumped into the atmosphere by human activities, a figure the scientists describe as “mind-blowing”.

The analysis found there are 1.7bn hectares of treeless land on which 1.2tn native tree saplings would naturally grow. That area is about 11% of all land and equivalent to the size of the US and China combined. Tropical areas could have 100% tree cover, while others would be more sparsely covered, meaning that on average about half the area would be under tree canopy.

The scientists specifically excluded all fields used to grow crops and urban areas from their analysis. But they did include grazing land, on which the researchers say a few trees can also benefit sheep and cattle.

“This new quantitative evaluation shows [forest] restoration isn’t just one of our climate change solutions, it is overwhelmingly the top one,” said Prof Tom Crowther at the Swiss university ETH Zürich, who led the research. “What blows my mind is the scale. I thought restoration would be in the top 10, but it is overwhelmingly more powerful than all of the other climate change solutions proposed.”

A trillion trees, it sounds like a lot.

We have had Phil Goff’s million trees project for Auckland Council and Shane Jones’ billion tree project for the Government.

Both are positive.  Jones’s proposal is not so great because it is mostly planting Pine for harvesting in the not too distant future.  To really make a dent in our carbon budget deficit we need to have long term sustainable forests grow, and Kauri are especially good at carbon sequestration.

But a billion trees is about 200 per kiwi.  A trillion trees is about 125 per person on the planet.

Of course the proposal needs to address the supply side of the equation as well as the demand side.  We need to urgently reduce the amount of CO2 we are pumping into the atmosphere as well as increasing the amount of CO2 we are sequestering.  And sorry meat lovers but we need to cut back on red meat consumption.

And we need to stop cutting down existing trees, particularly the large ones that have sequestered lots of carbon.  And there needs to be strong disincentives to dissuade Indonesia and Brazil from clearfelling their forests.

And this particular solution will take years to start having an effect.

But the message is clear.  Time to start planting.

An interview with Bob Harvey

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I had the privilege of interviewing Bob Harvey recently on Red Alert Radio on Planet FM.

Bob has had a huge effect on New Zealand politics. Using his prodigious skills in advertising he was behind some of the most successful political campaign advertisements ever conducted. He then decided to enter into local politics and became Mayor of Waitakere City, a position he held for eighteen years. And he was also a dedicated member of the Labour Party and became Party President at the time that the fifth Labour Government won power.

Due to programming requirements we only had 30 minutes which was a shame as we could have talked for hours.

I started off by asking him about the Labour campaign in 1972 which featured the “Its time” campaign slogan in both New Zealand and Australia. The campaigns were hugely successful with progressive governments being elected on both sides of the Tasman at least in part because of the desire for change that the campaigns engendered.

Bob pointed out how the slogan was perfectly scaleable and stood for many things as it was time for better education, better wages, a clean environment …

We then talked about the agony of the death of Norm Kirk and how it shocked the country. Bob talked about a particularly odious person who managed to ring through to Kirk’s hospital room to repeatedly ask him if he was dead yet in the days leading up to his eventual demise.

After Kirk’s death things went south for Labour. Rob Muldoon emerged and National’s infamous Dancing Cossack advertisements were played. Labour’s campaign in 1972 was uplifting and tucked at the heart strings. By contrast National’s was based on fear. It is funny how so often these different stances reflect the campaigns of the left and of the right.

If you have not seen it this is the ad in question.

There was also this particularly odious racist example that would not survive nowadays.

We then talked about the 1980s. Bob had vivid memories of David Lange and talked in some detail about his stomach stapling operation, and how a slimmer more dynamic David appeared after that and how he then captured the heart of the country.

As befits a talented adman Bob was impressed by David’s inspirational speech to the Oxford Union about nuclear weapons. He also confirmed details that David’s initial position was complex and that he worked to see if a compromise allowing the visit of a nuclear powered but not armed ship could occur.

We then talked about Bob’s decision to seek the mayoralty of Waitakere City. His motivation was a very simple one, he wanted to protect the Waitakere Ranges. He had spent much of his life either living or surfing or visiting the area and wanted it to be protected.

Bob did an extraordinary job in blending together two ideas, that Westies should be proud to be Westies and that they should be proud of our extraordinary environment. He cultured the concept of an eco city and made it central to the way that the city worked.

The film industry, which was fostered by Bob, was a major example of this, showing that high paid high tech jobs could be created at the same time as the environment was being nurtured. The film industry has poured huge amounts of money into the west and has been an outstanding success.

Bob said that there were two new projects coming out west which he could not mention. I wonder if this was one of them?

We talked about the Waitakere Ranges Heritage Area Act and how contentious it was at the time. People have moved on and the Act now represents the protective desires and aspirations that people have for the area.

We talked about the super city and how the concept of eco city was being lost. Bob was particularly scathing about incursions into the Waitemata Harbour and described the luxury cruise ship industry as being “bully boys”.

Bob thought that housing and transport were two pressing problems that the city was facing and that to run a city this size needs enormous imagination a clear commitment to spend. He was also concerned that the current council was something of a a bear pit and councillors should realise they are there to do a job and just get on and do it.

Tamihere verses Goff? Bob had some respect for Tamihere and the work he has done for Waipareira. But he thought the main job of the mayor was to unite the council and expressed his support for Goff.

And what did he think was the biggest issue facing the next super city council? Climate change. And we have gone backwards from having eco city at the front of our thinking to having the environment as only one of many things to consider.

It was a pleasure to talk to Bob and a strong reminder to me of what a significant influence he has had nationally and locally over many decades.

If you want to listen to the interview the feed can be accessed from here.

What happened to one person one vote?

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It is for Local Government election year. Soon your roadsides are going to be emblazoned with billboards and your letterboxes crammed with printed material from individuals and groups wanting to be your representative.

There are two aspects of the mechanics of this year’s election which I believe will be significant issues. The first is our depleted postal system and its (in)ability to handle postal votes. Reduced frequency and concerning examples of mail not being date stamped have cast some doubt o the veracity of recent school board of trustee elections. How this will effect local government elections and their much larger scale is yet to be seen.

The other aspect that has received recent attention is the rather archaic law that allows someone with multiple interests in land multiple votes.

From Television New Zealand:

An old law that gives owners of multiple properties extra voting rights in local elections is unfair, archaic and should be ditched, election researchers say.

The ratepayer roll allows people to vote in each council district, local board area and community board area the own property in.

RNZ analysis of Auckland’s ratepayer rolls from the 2016 local elections uncovered people who were enrolled as ratepayer voters in not just one, but two, three or four different local board areas.

One man was enrolled in seven separate local board areas, in addition to the area he lived in. Although he could only vote for Auckland’s mayor and councillors once, he was eligible to elect local board members in Howick, Upper Harbour, Devonport-Takapuna, Kaipatiki, Waitemata, Henderson-Massey, Manurewa, and Hibiscus and Bays local boards.

Overall, about 12,700 ratepayer votes were cast in the 2016 elections for district, city and regional councillors, and local and community board members.

The law is a kick back to the 18th century when the franchise depended on a person, initially a male person, also being a land owner. The landed gentry was considered to be more trustworthy in their political views and limiting the franchise would produce a better result, at least as far as members of that rather exclusive club were concerned.

The numbers are small. But if anything this reinforces how archaic the provision is and why it should be changed. And you can bet that most property owning absentee ratepayers would prefer to reduce rates than to build and nourish their local community.

The concept of one person one vote is something that is at the centre of our electoral system since the 1890s. It is time we made it apply to all our voting systems.

Chair’s report May 2019 – the climate crisis, Anzac day and Chickens

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This is my latest report covering various matters including declaring a climate change emergency for the Waitakere Ranges Local Board area, Anzac day, the moving on of Community Constable Heber Gasu track reopenings and chickens.

Climate change

Moved:

  1. That this report be received.
  2. That the Waitakere Ranges Local Board declares a climate emergency for the Waitakere Ranges Local Board area.
  3. That the WRLB urges Auckland Council to declare a climate emergency for the Auckland region.

Our world is facing an environmental crisis.  
The recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report indicated that if temperatures increase by 1.5 degrees celsius or more we face unprecedented risks and weather events.  But current trends in emissions suggest that we are instead facing a temperature increase of over 3 degrees.
To avert this the IPCC’s conclusion is that the world must reduce emissions of greenhouse gases to net zero by the middle of this century to have a reasonable chance of limiting global warming to 1.5°C.  That is for global emissions.  Western nations will need to reach this figure more quickly.

To use the words of Greta Thunberg:

” … the climate crisis is the most complex issue that we have ever faced and it’s going to take everything from our part to ”stop it”. But the solution is black and white; we need to stop the emissions of greenhouse gases.
Because either we limit the warming to 1,5 degrees C over pre industrial levels, or we don’t. Either we reach a tipping point where we start a chain reaction with events way beyond human control, or we don’t. Either we go on as a civilization, or we don’t. There are no gray areas when it comes to survival.

And when I say that I want you to panic I mean that we need to treat the crisis as a crisis. When your house is on fire you don’t sit down and talk about how nice you can rebuild it once you put out the fire. If your house is on fire you run outside and make sure that everyone is out while you call the fire department. That requires some level of panic.”

Currently Auckland Council’s goal under its climate action plan, is to achieve a 40% reduction of greenhouse gas generation by 2040.  The Government’s aim previously was for a 50% reduction by 2050.  Under the Zero Carbon bill that has recently been released oit is now proposed that New Zealand becomes carbon neutral by 2050.  And the sooner that carbon neutrality is reached the better.

Not only are we facing a climate crisis but we are facing a soil crisis.  It has been estimated by Maria-Helena Semedo of the Food and Agriculture Organization  that at current rates of degradation all of the world’s top soil could be gone within 60 years.  About a third of the world’s soil has already been degraded.

The causes of soil destruction include chemical-heavy, intensive and monoculture horticulture practices and farming techniques, deforestation which increases erosion, and global warming.

Unless new approaches are adopted, the global amount of arable and productive land per person in 2050 will be only a quarter of the level in 1960.

Our fisheries are crashing with predictions that by 2048 fishing stocks will be depleted.

This is the conclusion of a study by Boris Worm, of Dalhousie University.
And a recent UN report suggests that a million different species are facing extinction within the next 50 years.

These changes are not solely related to climate change.  The use of unsustainable farming and fishing techniques play their part.  But climate change is also having an effect.  Clearly the world is facing an environmental crisis.

There has been a world wide movement to declare climate change emergencies.  The United Kingdom Parliament has passed a resolution declaring that the country is in an environmental and climate change emergency.  The Welsh legislature has done the same.  Scottish leader Nicola Sturgeon has declared a climate emergency and various cities including London have also made declarations.   Wellington Council is consulting on its draft pathway to zero carbon consultation (https://www.zerocarboncapital.nz/).  And Nelson City Council’s mayor has also indicated a desire to make a similar declaration.

The resolution passed by the UK Parliament included a goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2050.

In the forward to the latest local board plan I said this:

We want to do our part to encourage sustainability in the way we live and in our interaction with and care for our environment. What this means in practice is that we will seek to make sure all of our programmes are viewed through a sustainability lens, and that we will advocate within the Auckland Council family for the effects of climate change and environmental degradation.”


Making of the declaration is a commitment to take the issue even more seriously than it has up to now and morally binds the Council to do something.  It is confirming to the public that Council both locally and regionally have to address this issue more urgently than we have in the past.

Auckland Council was recently asked to declare a climate emergency.  The promise was made to consider the request.  I believe that Council needs to do more than this and put climate change at the centre of its thinking and decision making.  The making of a declaration that we are in a climate crisis is the first step that needs to be taken.

Glen Esk Road

Auckland Council has recently consulted on options to address flooding on Glen Esk Road, Piha.  The local board has taken a keen interest in what is happening and we were concerned at some of the proposals.  These included damming of the valley and constructing a tunnell to take excess water to Garden Road.  

Both of these options are very expensive and highly destructive of the local environment and the prospects of them being approved are remote in the extreme.  We thought they should be taken out of the options being consulted on.  They were left in but the community response has been as predicted and I suspect that this will be the end of these particular proposals. 

Glen Eden Playhouse

The local board had a very constructive meeting with trustees of the Glen Eden Playhouse trust recently and both parties will work on improving and solidifying the relationship.  There has not been council presence at trustee meetings for a number of years and I anticipate that an invitation for us to attend will be extended.  There is also available funding which once certain Council requirements are met can be made available.  And the local board area does not have a civic quality facility and the Playhouse Trust could fulfill that requirement.

The Playhouse is an iconic building and the home of a great deal of important activity.  I am very pleased that the board can work with the trust to make sure that the Playhouse is well protected and well used.
I should acknowledge the work of local board member Ken Turner in helping with the improvement of the relationship between the trust and the board.

Glen Eden Safety project consultation results

The results have now been released.

One of the most frustrating aspects of the job is that the local board is on the receiving end of public complaints but sometimes we are the last to hear when decisions are made.  I only found out about the release of the consultation results concerning the Glen Eden safety project via Twitter when a couple of interested residents expressed concern at what had been decided.

And the results are disappointing.  I can understand the decision not to address safety at the level train crossing at this stage on the basis that the expense is considerable.  I am aware it is in medium term projects although clearly the sooner the better.

But the proposal to increase the amount of right turning traffic onto Glenview Road from West Coast Road seems counter productive.  Especially given the two tower apartment block is nearing completion and there is a need to improve safety so that kids living in the apartment houses can cross the road safely.

The scope of the project itself has been wound back.  There will now be three raised platforms.  And the reduction in speed has also been reduced with the minimum speed being retained at 50 kph.

The Board will meet with Auckland Transport in the near future to discuss my concerns and also to see what walking and cycling improvements the local board can lever off the project.

Anzac Day

The Anzac day ceremony this year was a much more subdued occasion.  Numbers attending were down, possibly because of people taking the opportunity of having an extended break but possibly because of lingering concerns about the events of march the 15th.  Security arrangements were much more pronounced and contributed to what was a more sombre event.  For instance at Piha instead of us marching from the RSA to Lion Rock we gathered more quietly at the rock.

I was privileged to give the speech at the Waikumete ceremony at 11 am.  I took the chance to reflect on the contribution that some of my family made to the war and to the fight for freedom and I noted that in many, many families there were similar tales of bravery and commitment.

I am sure that next year the event will be back to normal.  Congratulations to the RSAs for continuing to host these important events in difficult circumstances.

Glen Eden Apartments

These are well under way and I understand construction is due to be completed towards the end of the year.

Plans for the opening and the influx of a number of new residents are still being formulated.

As part of the welcome process the local board is investing a proposal by a group Organiser by Jade Tang-Taylor for the production of a welcome home campaign which will involve the provision of information, pamphlets, a website, maps and events to welcome these residents to Glen Eden.

A decision should be made on this soon.

Chickens

As I reported in my last Chair’s report the numbers of chickens in the TItirangi Village is getting to be a real problem.  There has always been a certain number of them  but numbers seem to have ballooned lately.  

They are becoming a major nuisance.  I have received a number of complaints about them.  Roosters crowing and keeping people awake at night is the most pressing examples of the problems being created.  

There is also a concern at the environmental damage that they are causing.

Unfortunately the problem falls within in the middle of different council department’s jurisdictions.

In the past Council has tried rehoming them using volunteers.  This has had short term benefits but the problem has persisted.

The local board is prepared to apply its own budget to addressing the problem.  Hopefully this will be advanced in the near future.

Farewell to Heber Gasu

Local community constable Heber Gasu is moving on.

Thankfully for West Auckland his policing skills will not be lost.  He has recently been seconded to Youth Aid and will be stationed out west.  His personable happy temperament will be ideal in dealing with troubled young people.

He remarked at his farewell how when he started the job he was tucked away in an office at the Fire Station away from the centre of action.  The local board was very conscious of this and this is why, following urging from Steve Tollestrup we opened the safety hub. 

It has provided a home for Heber and BID manager Jennifer Conlon not to mention the Pacifica wardens and the Glen Eden Community Patrol.  We believe that the police should be made a central part of our community and have been happy to assist.

The local board has recently reviewed the office.  It has been given a spruce up.  Rather than have closed in windows these have now been opened up to improve visibility both inside and outside.  Also Vision West have expressed an interest in using the office, although they could use even more space, and the board is happy to do what we can,

I am sure that the new community constable will be like every other community constable that I have met, dedicated to the job and wanting to contribute to their community.  But Heber will be missed.

Beats and Eats

The beats and eats series has now completed. 

The intent was to enliven the Glen Eden area,  With the help of Community Waitakere the area outside the library was converted into an area where people could eat their dinner and listen to chilled out music at the same time. 

I believe the series was very successful and hope that we will consider running the events again when the weather improves.