The 2021-31 Long Term Plan presents an opportunity for Christchurch City Council to step up its response to climate change and publicly demonstrate its commitment to lowering carbon emissions, says Councillor Sara Templeton.
When I was first elected to Council in 2016, I would have been laughed at if I had predicted that within three years we would declare a climate change emergency and set carbon neutral targets for Christchurch.
It is a sign of how far the conversations around climate change have evolved that both of those things have happened.
There is now widespread acceptance that urgent action is needed to mitigate climate change and as a city we have set ourselves the target of becoming net carbon neutral by 2045.
The Long Term Plan that Christchurch City Council will develop with our communities next year provides a chance for us to address the challenges and opportunities of climate change over the coming 10 years.
That excites me. But, I also worry that we may not do enough soon enough, and those kids that we see playing on the Margaret Mahy Playground now won’t be able to enjoy the city in the same way that we do when they have kids of their own.
It is in everyone’s interest for us to do all that we can to mitigate the impacts of climate change and build resilience.
Fifty-four per cent of Christchurch’s emissions come from transport. Enabling people to make climate-friendly, sustainable transport choices is one of the key things that we can do as a city to help people lower carbon emissions.
That is why it is important that our Long Term Plan supports public transport and active modes of travel like walking, cycling and scootering. We need to make sure that people have the option of being able to safely bike or bus to work, school or the library, because it will reduce vehicle use and help to lower emissions.
We also need to consider in the Long Term Plan how we can encourage and help our communities take action on climate change. Many people want to reduce their carbon footprint but don’t know how to start.
I think the Council can help by providing information about how we can take action at a personal level and how we can take action at a community level. It is through working with our communities, and with central Government, that we will get the best results and meet our carbon neutral target.
As part of our response to climate change, we need to build community resilience.
To me, community resilience is the ability of a community to face the challenges that come our way, whether they be sharp shocks like the COVID-19 pandemic, or slower ones like climate change. It is the ability to be able to face those challenges together, to be inclusive, and to help each other adapt over time to a new normal.
In Christchurch we are fortunate to have a network of fantastic community facilities that communities use to come together, workshop and connect. We also have a growing number of community gardens, many of them on Council land, that also help bring people together and build our food resilience.
As a Council we need to continue to encourage those strong community connections and look at how we can build on the wonderful work that our many community groups do.
Like many businesses and organisations, the Council has taken a financial hit because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The organisation needs to make savings, particularly to its operational budget which covers the day-to-day costs of running the city and has the most direct impact on rates.
Those savings may necessitate changes to the levels of service, such as opening hours at Council facilities and how often parks are mowed, unless we can find different ways of doing things.
Many groups in our city have already adopted parks, reserves and waterways and are taking care of them. There is an opportunity for us to encourage more of this type of activity – for the benefit of both the community and the ratepayer.
For instance, Roimata Food Commons has recently made a pact with the Council that it will maintain the Council-owned land in Woolston that it uses for its community orchard in return for the Council keeping the land completely spray-free.
The arrangement is a win-win. It gives Roimata the level of service it wants and at the same time save ratepayers money.
In the coming months all aspects of our spending is likely to come under scrutiny as we look to make savings. There is likely to be conversations around the suburban masterplans and how we prioritise them.
We may also need to review community grants and funding. We have one of the highest levels of community funding in the country for a Council. I am sure we will be looking at whether the current level of funding is appropriate and whether it is targeted in the right places.
As we begin to look at these issues I encourage you to be part of the conversation, to stay informed, and to have your say.
The decisions made in the 2021-31 Long Term Plan will affect everyone in some shape or form.
*Councillor Sara Templeton is Chair of Christchurch City Council's Sustainability and Community Resilience Committee.