July 2021 Insights

Three Waters and the Local Government Reforms


There has been quite a few stories in the news about the three-waters reforms, where central government is proposing for four entities to take control over the management of drinking water, wastewater and stormwater.


Hamilton City Council is approaching this with a fairly open mind, but many other councils have expressed concern. Three-waters management makes up a large part of many councils operations, and it's seen of a first dicing up to set the scene for the larger scale local government reform. Uncertainty abounds until more details get released.


Waikato Regional Council's key role in the three-waters space is one of granting and monitoring against resource consents for those activities. Ultimately, my view is that it may be easier to deal with only one entity in our region rather than many. Municipal compliance is a topic dear to me because of the scale of these activities and therefore their impact on our environment when things aren't managed well.

 

RMA Reforms


Throughout July we have been briefed on initial snippets of the first part of the Resource Management Act reforms, i.e. the Natural & Built Environments Act. Later we will get to see the first thoughts on a new Spatial Planning Act & Climate Adaptation Act.

The goals of the reform are to have legislation that will better help to (1) restore the environment, (2) enable development, (3) align with the principles of Te Tiriti, (4) help us adapt to climate change and (5) improve efficiency/effectiveness.


Like the other reforms, this is happening fast, which is good because government was always too slow. So as we get the chance, we try to make great points in our submissions to central government at every stage of the process so the end result will work well in practice. Don't underestimate how massive the changes will be.


You'll be hearing plenty more about this and if you have any questions please reach out as I'm happy to go into the detail for those who want it.

 

Global Climate Action Update


July was a bit overwhelming as far as extreme weather events went worldwide, right? From heatwaves and wildfires to massive flooding across both developed and developing countries, all seemingly at once.


It's often said that humanity needs to feel the reality of more extreme weather before really engaging to act and I can certainly feel yet another shift of more people realising this - there are very few deniers left, and the biggest risk now is delay; which can also be put as "winning slowly is the same as losing".

The 6th IPCC report is about to be released on August 9th to give us the latest scientific consensus on how dire the situation is, especially in regards to tipping points. The main points from previous thinking are listed in the fairly easy-to-read Climate Reality Check.


Then there's always the bigger picture to consider, well described in the latest planetary boundaries documentary on Netflix and the fact that Earth Overshoot Day fell on 29th of July this year - earlier than ever! In line with that, recent research has just affirmed that the Limits to Growth models are still holding true and ever more scientists are calling for rapid action.


On the plus side, there are some very big moves being made by the EU on their new Fit for 55 legislation and by China finally launching its long awaited energy sector ETS, and there will be many more announcements before COP26 in November, including from New Zealand through the National Emissions Reduction Plan being prepared as well as the National Adaptation Plan, so there is certainly much to be hopeful about.


In my role as chair of climate action at WRC I do my best to stay updated, meet with people, and brainstorm solutions for our region. I absolutely love the fact that I get to have time between council meetings to learn what's going on locally and what the gaps and ideas are that need connection between people to make things happen for our city and our region.


I look forward to giving you a comprehensive local climate action update next month. In the meantime, in case you want a bit of light relief but still stay on the climate topic I can recommend a great new podcast called Outrage and Optimism.

 

Council's Energy and Carbon journeys


One of the people I got to meet with in July was the CEO of Waikato LASS (Local Activity Shared Services). WLASS is an organisation that gets staff from our regions councils working together to improve services and reduce costs. Every council pays a small fee to be part of it and gets a fair share out of the benefits.


Much of the work gets undertaken in working groups and the one that I find particularly interesting is the one focussed on Energy and Carbon - they put out a newsletter every few months and they are full of good news stories that we don't often hear about through the media.


It has supported many councils to get their own house in order in regards to energy efficiency and carbon emission improvements which is great as the big work of helping communities decarbonise and adapt is coming. I've been in touch with councillors from many of them to see how they're going and how we might help each other more too.

 

Newest Biomass Boiler in Te Awamutu


Since several of my previous roles (before being elected) involved working as an Environmental Manager across Fonterra manufacturing sites, I was thrilled to be invited onto a site recently (wearing my chair of climate action hat) when Minister Megan Woods was available to celebrate the new biomass boiler conversion in Te Awamutu.


It is the largest wood fired boiler in New Zealand, being fed by approximately 5 trucks of Nature's Flame pellets a day (in season), and lowers Fonterra's coal use by 10%. The ash left behind is much cleaner and is 10x lower volume than coal ash and can therefore be used on land as fertiliser rather than being disposed of underground.


They also took advantage during the event to announce that they would be focussing on Stirling site next (in the south island) and then to get another 8 more sites off coal after that. The project team is very proud and also happy to share its learning with others, so contact them if you want to know more or ask me if you need contacts.

 

Strengthening Communities Hui 2021


If you're into getting together with a bunch of others to talk collaboration on climate action I recommend checking out the Strengthening Communities Hui being held in Karapiro on 15-17 September 2021, organised by Community Enterprise Collaboration.

 

Hamilton City Council By-election


You will likely have received your voting pack in the mail now... so read through the pamphlet and tick the name(s) of those that you believe will best represent your views. You can google them or get in touch if you're not sure and want to sound them out on a few issues, go on!


But most importantly... remember to get the form dropped off or sent back in well before the due date of Wednesday 18th August. It's so important to get a quality candidate - I look forward to seeing whose life (and ours impacted) will be transformed!

 

Coming up in August


Many meetings this month! You are very welcome to come observe our decision making - agenda's are available few days before and/or ask me about any of them before/after.

  • Regional Transport Committee 9.30am-1pm on 2nd August

  • Civil Defence Emergency Management Committee 1.30-4pm on 2nd August

  • Submissions Subcommittee 10-11am on 3rd August where we finalise our submission on the Natural & Built Environments Act (part 1 of RMA reform).

  • Environmental Performance Committee 10am-2pm on 5th August where we discuss the latest resource consent applications & compliance, soils and PFOA's.

  • Regional Connections Committee 9.30am-12pm on 6th August where the latest public transport improvement opportunities will be considered.

  • Integrated Catchment Management Committee 10am-2pm on 10th August

  • Climate Action Committee 10am-1pm on 12th August where we will cover what has been achieved so far and have planned, where the regional climate impacts updates are at, and get a presentation by Dr Belinda Storey on coastal adaptation.

  • Waikato Plan Leadership Committee 10am-12.30pm on 16th August

  • Finance and Services Committee 10am-2pm on 18th August

  • Te Kōpu ā Kānapanapa Committee 10am-1pm on 20th August

  • Regional Pest Management Plan Hearings 9.30am-4.30pm on 23rd August with a back up day provided on the 25th August.

  • Strategy and Policy Committee 9.30am-1.30pm on 24th August

  • Plan Change 1 Appeals Advisory Committee 2-3.30pm on 24th August

  • Full Council Monthly Meeting 9.30am-2pm on 26th August

 

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Ngaa mihi nui,

Jennifer