Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Let’s hear less from Greater Wellington

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Alan Emerson is fed up with what he calls the ‘extreme whims’ of the regional council’s climate change approach.
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The general election is upon us – thank heavens. I’m over it.

The climate change policy debate has been interesting, if inconclusive.

For a start, every party except ACT is committed to net zero by 2050. National has said it will scrap some of Labour’s climate policies but has been vague on what it will do to replace them.

All that indicates to me that there will be even more of a shambles on climate change legislation after the election than currently. That’s depressing.

On top of that we have an additional problem in the southern North Island and that is the extreme whims of the Greater Wellington Regional Council (GWRC).

GWRC has a climate change plan, which I’d suggest is far more destructive than that supported by central government.

You’d have to ask why.

As you know, I consider many of the decisions coming out of the Wellington bureaucracy to be deeply flawed. Those coming out of GWRC are, in my view, even more so.

Consider the logic. We had the zero-carbon legislation, the Climate Change Response Act, and the Climate Change Commission all having input into a national strategy.

Then in rides the GWRC on a white charger, telling us that its climate change initiatives are even more rigorous than those of central government. 

Unsurprisingly, I have several issues with that position. The first would be to question the qualifications of the GWRC in the climate change space.

Central government can call on the expertise, or otherwise, from the Ministry for the Environment, Department of Conservation, Ministry for Primary Industries, Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment and the Environmental Protection Authority. What resources is GWRC relying on?

That the GWRC track record in environmental issues is flawed is evidenced by the wetland fiasco in Upper Hutt.

A developer wanted to develop an area. The GWRC refused to allow it, saying the development would interfere with an established wetland. The Environment Court ruled there was no wetland. The developer is suing the GWRC for $20 million. Such is the environmental expertise of the GWRC.

Mind you, that didn’t stop GWRC Climate Committee chair Penny Gaylor telling me that its approach would “strengthen the council’s reputation as a climate change leader”.

I would humbly suggest that the GWRC would be better off running a remotely efficient public transport system than trying to be a leader in an area where I’d question its expertise.

I also remain totally unimpressed with its 16.94% rates hike. It put part of that increase down to “inflation and rising interest rates”.

Doesn’t it realise that its ratepayers have the same problems and that a 16.94% increase is ridiculous?

Another issue is that central government policies, regulations and legislation are transparent. While we may not agree with government initiatives, we know the reasons behind them. The opposition can question and debate. The process is transparent. 

That’s not the case with much of local government.

What the GWRC has done is to set a target of a 50% reduction in all GHGs by 2030. That’s less than six and a half years away.

That’s both ridiculous and totally impractical. No one else has done it so why would the GWRC?

Reading through the myriad of platitudes in its reports, the only mitigation option I could see was to plant pine trees. That’s unimaginative, economically destructive and a massive fire hazard. It had other options, like promoting genetic engineering.

The tragedy is that the GWRC isn’t the only climate missionary trying to hamstring the productive rural sector. Now the Aussie banks are wanting to get involved.

BNZ has a dairy emissions reduction target of 11% by 2030. ANZ appears to be heading down the same tortuous track.

As with the GWRC, I’d question the banks’ ability to make an informed decision on agricultural emissions. The fact that they announced their ridiculous targets at the busiest time of year for dairy farmers shows they also don’t understand the practicalities of agriculture.

I’d further question whether they’ve installed the same targets in Australia.

My research also shows that the Australian banks have funded $A8.9 billion ($9.5bn) to coal, oil and gas, $A385 million to expand the fossil fuel industry and $A464 million to some of the most climate destructive companies in Australia.

For them to then target New Zealand farmers to reduce their environmental impact is rampant hypocrisy and unscientific.

Fortunately for farmers Feds, Beef + Lamb NZ and DairyNZ have released a research note by leading scientists from Oxford University saying that our methane targets are wrong and insisting on a science-led methane review.

They believe a 15% reduction in methane will achieve the nation’s goals. I agree.

The organisations are to be congratulated for their research. It is detailed, definitive and non-political.

They just need to make sure that the GWRC and the Aussie banks get copies. Unlike those organisations’ ramblings, the Feds, Beef and Lamb and DairyNZ evidence is highly credible and scientifically robust.

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