A big huge thank you to all of you who have worked hard to keep your family, friends and workmates feeling supported throughout the past year. Local government has had a massive workload recently responding to central government policy suggestions while continuing to deliver the huge multitude of services to the community.
I am immensely grateful for the opportunity to be a part of this. A huge thank you to those who voted for me in October 2019, and those who have shaped the time since then, especially those who have given me opportunities to learn and grow.
I'll be spending the next few weeks in the garden and pondering what's most important in life, what self-care is required, and how to be of more and better service to you all in 2022. Merry Christmas and New Year to those who are celebrating, and best wishes also to those who are just enjoying some quieter days while our culture slows down.
I look forward to sharing 2022 with you and achieving great things together. Aroha nui.
The latest on Climate Action
For those interested in a COP26 summary here is one by Carbon Brief and Washington Post. My conclusion at this point in time is that more public pressure is needed in 2022 to give our Prime Minister and Members of Parliament the confidence to do more.
In November, our Council made a submission in response to the National Emission Reduction Plan discussion document and I was very pleased to get my main points included and to see them highlighted as messages and quotes in our media release.
In summary, key points that were important to me were:
That investment in NZ's transition to a low-carbon economy should be made as soon as possible, rather than spending vast amounts of money offsetting our emissions elsewhere in the world and then having to still invest here later.
That policies to transition to a low-carbon economy should be open to strengthening so that if the level of ambition needs to be increased, or timeframes need to be brought forward, that this can be done as needed.
That government give due consideration to what kind of backstops or 'Plan B' types of legislation may be needed if initial attempts at emission reduction fail, so that there is a guarantee emission reduction targets will be met.
That government and big industries should shoulder most of the responsibility to make systemic changes, because I believe it is wrong, unfair and ineffective to put too much responsibility on individual behaviour change.
That there should be significant investment into reducing the demand for energy, so that wasteful use is addressed early on and renewable energy can keep up.
That government, industry and the community need consistent data and decision-making tools to understand and address greenhouse gas emissions. Working together is much easier when we're on the same page, same facts.
That much more support needs to be provided to small and medium sized businesses to transition to a low-carbon economy, especially after the major stresses of the pandemic, so that they are not left behind or hindering progress. They influence NZ's culture greatly and the transition can't be done without them.
That the community deserves to receive frequent and consistent messaging on the state of the climate emergency response and what actions required from government, business and the community - similar in a sense to covid updates.
Our submission for the National Emission Reduction document is available to read here.
During the November Climate Action Committee meeting we also, in addition to the two topics above, also discussed the following items related to climate adaptation:
That the new Local Climate Change Risk Assessment Framework is now available for use. Hence, our Council can now use this to pull together existing information to make a region wide assessment to inform what will eventually be the Regional Adaptation Plan. This will be a complement to the central government one.
A dynamic-systems report and tool has recently been put together to show how our water cycle works and what to consider when trying to adapt to drought. It is hoped this will help inform future adaptation decisions for best overall benefits.
And we also discussed the following local emission reduction topics:
That the Low-Emissions Waikato workshop, organised by WRC and Te Waka for many key organisations in the region in mid-November, was a success and that outputs from this will lead to the development of an online tool for modelling emissions reduction in the region. This is an instrumental piece of work to help in the development of a Regional Emissions Reduction Plan. The intention is that this will in turn align to the national plan due to be released in May 2022. My hope is that organisations in the Waikato will get a lot of confidence, pride and success in the coming years by working together on this.
That the Waikato Regional Council corporate emissions have reduced by 44% over the past 4 years, mainly due to reduced air travel and low levels of flooding (we use diesel pumps to operate our flood protection and drainage activities). However, our baseline and targets will need a review as we will soon be expanding our view to the wider supply-chain emissions (scope 3) such as public transport and drainage of peat-soils (when possible), and so on.
There is a lot of work yet to be done but I can start to see that if everyone can get behind pitching in we can achieve great things in a short time on both emission reduction and building resilience into our communities.
The latest on Waste
In November Waikato Regional Council also submitted on the central government waste strategy, again many of my points were included. The key ones were:
The need for government to step up and make systemic fixes rather than focussing too much on messaging individual behaviour change. Product stewardship regulations and import regulations are critical to reduce the sheer volume of waste and contaminants entering the system.
Resource recovery and recycling options should be standardised across the country, not left up to each district to do something different, as this currently confuses everyone and prevents decent, reliable and secure economies of scale.
Waste management has been underinvested in for too long, it is necessary for there to be more paid roles in our community for building the circular economy. All regional councils should have at least one role focussed on waste, like WRC.
We put out this media release and you can read our final submission here.
Air quality in Hamilton is an emerging concern
New Zealand's Air Quality Standards (2004) are very out of date. The Ministry for the Environment recently released the report Our Air 2021 which looks at the state of our air compared to the newest WHO guidelines which are more stringent than before.
Hamilton is unlikely to meet the new guidelines around PM2.5, PM10 and nitrogen dioxide. The main culprits for this are vehicle emissions from cars and trucks (especially around intersections where there is a lot of stop-starting) and old wood fired burners (mainly an issue in winter, obviously).
Waikato Regional Council monitors the Hamilton airshed directly at 2 main stations (one at Claudelands and one near the Hospital) to get hourly average concentrations, and Waka Kotahi has 12 passive sampler units for gathering monthly data.
NIWA has correctly pointed out that this highlights the significant opportunity of addressing both climate change and our health at the same time.
We don't need more data to know what to do... what we need to do is reduce car and truck emissions (both through improved vehicles and reducing kilometres travelled) and install cleaner energy in our homes, schools, hospitals and industrial factories/sites.
We have a chance to help ourselves locally and globally. I don't want anyone to have to walk around Hamilton worrying about their health from breathing, we deserve better.
The latest in Transport
I am stoked to be able to share that our Regional Transport Committee has recently set up a working group on emission reductions in the transport, and they've already had their first meeting in December. You can read more about this on our Transport page.
This coincides nicely with the launch of the Transport Emissions Calculator that has been developed as a decision-support tool to help in any conversations within organisations or with the public on what the most effective actions are.
In regards to public transport, many of you may not know that the way it is funded and implemented is way too piecemeal and complicated. In my view, we need some changes in how we do things so we can get more well-thought out, sensible, high quality public transport infrastructure and services in Hamilton and the wider region.
That's why I supported our Council in the decision to, over the summer, consult our transport partners on whether they'd like to collaborate and design a new way together. If you want to know more about the idea check out the Public Transport Business Improvement Review in our Extraordinary Council Meeting Agenda (25 November 2021).
I was also able to support two other bits of progress in regards to public transport:
The first was to agree to provide funding to close the gap for our contracted bus drivers to be paid the living wage. Decent wages are an important part of our economy and wellbeing, so it was great that this led to a decision to also have the Council look into what it would entail to develop a policy encompassing other contracted services.
The second one was to extend the hours of free public transport for users that have a Bee Card with a SuperGold concession loaded to any time of the day. Currently, their travel is free between 9am-3pm and after 6.30pm on weekdays and all weekends and public holidays, but with this change due to go live on 1 March 2022 it will make life a whole lot simpler by not having to watch the clock so closely.
In 2022 I'll be advocating for this type of ease of moving around on public transport to also get extended for other groups, in particular youth. Note - children under 5 are already free at all times.
Our Council(s) must find a way of making public transport, walking and cycling the preferred mode of travel for the majority of people for the majority of the time. It is the best way to address air quality and climate change in Hamilton, and also give many people the choice to drive less or own one car less and majorly lower their cost of living.
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Ngā mihi nui,
It's going to be great to be outside this summer - stay safe out there!