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Will Auckland Council’s climate change plans be enough to protect the city as the planet heats up? (Image: Tina Tiller)
Will Auckland Council’s climate change plans be enough to protect the city as the planet heats up? (Image: Tina Tiller)

PoliticsMarch 16, 2021

Can Auckland’s $150m climate change plan save the city from disaster?

Will Auckland Council’s climate change plans be enough to protect the city as the planet heats up? (Image: Tina Tiller)
Will Auckland Council’s climate change plans be enough to protect the city as the planet heats up? (Image: Tina Tiller)

Auckland Council is proposing an additional $150 million to combat climate change, but some are questioning whether it will protect the city’s most vulnerable residents.

“I get really scared when I think about what the future holds for me and people my age.”

That’s Nadine Tupp. She’s an environmental scientist, who’s putting her expertise to use in Māngere East as a waste regeneration facilitator at ME Family Service Centre, overseeing the organisation’s community recycling services. 

The Māngere Bridge resident’s concern relates to the devastating consequences climate change will have on South Auckland. For this reason, she’s encouraging people to give feedback on Auckland Council’s environmental plans as part of its proposed “Recovery Budget”.

“Given the scale of the change, and the disproportionate impact communities like South Auckland are going to face, not taking steps now will have really negative impacts,” the 23-year-old says.

“[Council’s proposed budget] is addressing the really pressing environmental issues that we face, but at the same time, that investment also supports social solutions to those issues.” 

From left; environmental scientist Nadine Tupp, landscape architect lecturer Jacqueline Paul and Auckland councillor Richard Hills. (Photos: Justin Latif/Supplied)

But Jacqueline Paul isn’t so sure. The born-and-raised South Auckland Unitec lecturer and landscape architect says the council’s proposals lack detail.

“Personally, I don’t think any of the proposed actions in the climate change response is significant outside of business-as-usual.” 

In 2019, council released its assessment on how climate change would impact the city, and it identified the areas most at risk as Māngere, Ōtāhuhu, Ōtara, Papatoetoe, Manurewa and Papakura – which have high numbers of people in low-income households with poor quality housing or chronic illness. 

For this reason, Paul would have preferred council increasing rates and going with its $320 million option.

“I would support the $320 million proposal, however the priorities provided do not have attached clear budget lines for certain initiatives. I definitely support council borrowing more and increasing targeted rates, but our communities need a high level of certainty and confidence regarding allocation of resources and investment areas.”

Tupp says it’s important Aucklanders have their say on these proposals to ensure council locks this investment in for the next 10 years. 

“To get the $150 million secured would be awesome, as not planning for climate changes now is something that could be really dangerous.”

Environment and Climate Change Committee chair councillor Richard Hills has been leading efforts to ensure investment in this area features strongly in council’s budget. He says it’s pleasing his fellow councillors are fairly united behind the proposed plans.

“The original plan was to have two targeted rates put out for consultation, for a small package and a larger package – but others (councillors) were nervous about another targeted rate. Therefore putting through another targeted rate, without majority support, could have ended up with a situation where we could have lost all of the initiatives.”

Despite his council colleagues’ nerves about further investment, Hills is pleased to get a $150 million package included in the new budget. 

He says he feels far more positive now than when he was first elected to council a years ago, when he “didn’t believe we were taking [climate change] seriously”.

“We’re making significant changes and having every department put a climate lens over every decision we make. But of course my frustration is that we’ll never be going fast enough and we’ll need significant help from the government and different parts of the council to stop a carbon-heavy future.”

Hills also says it’s important to keep in mind that council has lost significant revenue due to the global pandemic.

“If Covid hadn’t taken a billion dollars off us, I can imagine how much more we could be doing. Everyone assumes that lockdown is over, so we’re back to normal, but 60% of our revenue comes from things like concerts, events, the port, airport shares and even parking, and our public transport revenue has been totally shot.”

Among the proposals in the budget, council is planning to increase its planting of trees in South Auckland, which has the lowest coverage of any part of the city, including an additional 11,000 trees to be planted on berms across the city.

In order to encourage recycling and prepare communities for a zero-waste future, four more community food hubs based on the Papatoetoe Food Hub’s model will be set up in low-income areas. There will also be nine more community recycling centres and two resource recovery parks set up, including two facilities to be built in yet-to-be disclosed South Auckland locations. 

Hills says it’s imperative Aucklanders send a clear message to council that more investment is needed on climate change. 

“This is a huge extra investment specifically for climate change initiatives on top of the already multi-billion-dollar budgets we have for things like public transport, stormwater and environment  biodiversity budgets, which have positive climate outcomes,” says Hills.

“But this will never be enough, and we need Aucklanders to tell us loud and clear that they support the initiatives and the budget while also telling us to do more, which will send a message to the mayor and councillors that we need this work done – plus push us to do more.”

  • Consultation on Auckland Council’s Recovery Budget closes 12pm, March 22. Click here for more information. 
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