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Andy Foster: Climate change policies and action

by Andy Foster
There is no question that our footprint on the Planet is too great. In June, the Council declared a Climate Emergency. At my suggestion we also declared an Ecological Emergency, as far as I am aware the first Council to do that.

The Climate and Ecology are of course linked, but they are also different. In proposing the Ecological Emergency I was very conscious of news that globally there are an estimated one million distinct species at threat of extinction, almost entirely as a result of the actions of one species – us.

MftE recently published the ‘Environment Aotearoa 2019’ report which paints a similarly bleak New Zealand picture. 90% of seabirds, 80% of all birds, 76% of freshwater fish, 84% of lizards and 46% of vascular plants are at risk or threatened with extinction. Almost 4,000 New Zealand species are at risk of extinction.

My Climate Change Response Policy

Urban Form Supporting Sustainability
Compact, mixed use urban form – The most important transport initiative is actually designing towns and cities so people can easily walk to work, education, services and public transport. More than anyone else I have been the consistent leader of Wellington’s compact mixed use urban form approach. There is no question it has worked. If there is a frustration it is around some of the quality of development. I intend our upcoming District Plan review to address that.

My Policies
• Review our planning rules over the next three years. We need to provide for more housing and non-residential capacity. In doing that we will continue our compact mixed use urban form approach. Within that I will empower communities to develop their own plans and determine what they value and want to protect as we grow.
• Actively work with other Councils in the Region to encourage lower carbon land use patterns regionally.

More Sustainable Transport
Under my transport leadership, Wellington City has easily New Zealand’s highest levels of combined walking, cycling and public transport use.

Until the early 1990s public transport use was in continuous decline. I helped turn that around. Walking, cycling and public transport use has grown every year since 1992 as a proportion of journeys. (ie grown mode share) In 2001 in Wellington City there were 65 people walking, cycling or using public transport to get to work or education for every 100 people using the car. Today it is 100 per 100. At last available information, in the rest of the Region it is 25 to 100 while Auckland and Christchurch are under 20 to 100.

Wellington Regional public transport journeys have grown 60%, against population growth of 20% since 1992. Since 2000 Wellington City annual cordon counts show cycling numbers have tripled. I also wrote the paper proposing introducing car share. We are doing a lot right. Now it is time to take another step forward.

My Policies
• Complete the City bus priority network. I’ve led delivery of almost every existing bus priority lane and traffic light in the city so far and battled to get the bus priority network completed. It is worth looking at who voted against my earlier proposals for bus priority investment.
• Support the newly elected GWRC to fix their bus system. We cannot do their job for them, but we can work with them, advocate and make suggestions. I am now working with GWRC on resurrecting the Airport Flyer and on trialing frequent shuttle services around hill suburbs to connect with local railway stations where Park and Ride is always full.
• Safer speeds in the Central City, Suburban Centres and around Schools – also allows e scooters more safely on the road.
• More walkable, bikeable city – for example raised platforms for improved safety and accessibility, safer speeds, dedicated space for walking and biking/scootering.
• Traffic reduced in the Central City and reduced emissions from idling traffic (far less efficient than moving traffic) by early completion of Mt Victoria tunnel and Basin Reserve solution. Mt Vic tunnel to provide for quality walking and cycling as well as vehicles
• Advocate for cordon pricing and long stay parking levies – Council needs legislation to allow this. Both encourage behavioural change and would take cost off rates. You can largely choose when and how to travel. You cannot choose to avoid direct or indirect rates.
• Support for electric vehicles and e bikes – I am exploring the potential of Council acting as a bulk buying agent for EVs and E Bikes to reduce their cost to pre-paid up purchasers.
• Continue to expand car share including into major apartment complexes as a way of reducing the need to own your own car. I continue to encourage more affordable car share vehicle choices. (Audis are expensive !)

What We Consume
You’ll hear people say 58% of our emissions come from transport. That is because emissions are measured at point of production, not point of consumption. Because Wellington City essentially imports almost all the food and manufactured products we consume, the emissions created in their production are attributed to the place they are produced. That makes us look artificially better than we are. Of course the Planet doesn’t care how we measure ! What and how much we consume is what’s important.

Transport accounts for 25% of the average household’s emissions. 51% comes from food and some from other sources including manufacturing. So what we eat and the products we consume are important. At a personal level we can choose what we consume. Could we make it easier to change to a lower carbon lifestyle ? Personally I would be interested in more advice around good nutrition and great recipes. Could we promote lower carbon lifestyles, build community strength, and make it fun? I reckon ! There is a huge amount of knowledge in our communities that can be unleashed.

My Policies
• Explore opportunities to encourage lower carbon lifestyles, including supporting education opportunities.

I will release an article on our incredible environmental restoration journey and my Environmental Restoration Policies shortly. I have played a leading role in that restoration journey. From a Climate Perspective:

My High Level Policies
• Continue supporting community and direct Council revegetation work on reserve land
• Support landowners to protect significant vegetation on their own land
• Complete the City reserve network – Outer Green Belt, Town Belt recovery, and Miramar’s Watts Peninsula, which all also have carbon sink potential.

We have excellent information now about risks from sea level rise to property. In building we need to consider issues like the intended lifespan of a building and its design (floor levels), especially in long lived buildings.

My Policies:
• As part of Planning for Growth and District Plan Review, direct new building to areas safe from inundation by sea level rise. (Shelly Bay is an example where the majority of Council ignored our pleas to insulate future ratepayers from this liability)
• Work closely with and empower communities to develop responses to protect, adapt or retreat from rising seas, as we have been doing with the Makara Beach community over the last 18 months.

Waste and Carbon Offsets
We dump an estimated 3.2 tonnes of waste per person every year. I will release more detailed Waste Policies shortly.

Key policies from a Climate perspective :
• Reduce waste to landfill by processing sewage sludge to significantly reduce its volume. That is essential to allow us to reduce the amount of waste needed in the landfill to mix with the sludge. (we must have 4 times as much other material like rubbish as sewage sludge so if sludge can be reduced in volume and dewatered then we can cut waste to landfill)
• Continue waste to energy generation and investigate whether we can expand this. Our partnership with Nova Gas provides power for 1000 households and captures 4 million cubic metres of landfill gases a year.
• Provide education and support for home composting where possible
• Work with Government and LGNZ to encourage establishing New Zealand based reprocessing industries to create a circular economy. Seaview’s Flight Plastics is a great example of being able to continuously reprocess #1 plastics into food trays and other packaging.
• Work with Government and LGNZ to require producer stewardship for more products including containers.

Landfill Emissions Offset
The landfill represents a massive 80% of Council’s direct carbon emissions. We currently have to buy $1.9 million a year of carbon credits to offset those emissions. That sum is rising and will rise further as the cap on carbon prices is removed.

My policy
• I am pursuing the opportunity to invest directly in forest regeneration as our offset. My plan is to do this in partnership with other local authorities, and Government agencies including the One Billion Trees programme. We can also get financial support from the OBT programme, allowing us to get even greater carbon benefits and/or at reduced cost. Taking a New Zealand Inc approach will also create ecological habitat and regional jobs. In time I hope we will be able to do this internationally. I would love our Zoo to be part of direct habitat protection for endangered species while off-setting their emissions.

Measuring Our Progress

My policy
• We will continue to engage in leading science on climate change.
• We will monitor and report on our collective progress on becoming carbon neutral
• I will create (not personally!) an artwork(s) displaying our ongoing environmental performance across a range of key indicators. By way of example, several years ago I saw a series of obelisk artworks on Stockholm’s waterfront which displayed a range of environmental indicators, showing citizens how they collectively are doing. I want an artwork on our waterfront showing key environmental indicators – emissions, waste, water quality, travel behaviour, resource use, biodiversity. It will be an easy, attractive, accessible reminder and motivator of our progress in becoming more sustainable.

Cr Andy Foster is a candidate for the Wellington mayoralty.