Wellington Scoop

Tamatha Paul: testing ways to affect climate change

On his Inside Wellington website, Benoit Pette has launched a series of podcast conversations with city councillors, starting with first-time councillor Tamatha Paul. He asked what she thought were her most significant achievements so far.

“I would say as a newbie, I’m really proud of the work that I’ve done in the climate change space, acknowledging that there is still far to go in reaching our targets. I’ve tried and tested different mechanisms to affect change. So, one would be, you know, the airport loan, and withholding that from them. That’s trying out a method of accountability for those who pollute. I’ve tried investing through bringing forward the $200 million for cycleways, and also public transport advocacy to look at mechanisms, to encourage alternatives to polluting activities such as driving a petrol car. I’ve tried working on policies and strategies and seeing how that works. In helping with the Te Atakura implementation plan, and I’ve tried with notices of motion – bringing forward that notice of motion on banning fossil fuel free vehicles in the CBD.

“So I’ve tried a range of different tools on this one issue. And just as a newbie, I’ve been testing what works and what doesn’t work, but then also returning to my grassroots and organizing protests. So helping with organizing the protest on Courtenay Place around city safety, and managing to secure $10 million to improve city safety, which was a portfolio of mine prior to the restructure. I think it’s been going well…

“I reject this idea that your first term is about learning. And then your second term is about action. Actually, we’ve got just nine years to significantly reduce our carbon emissions and to radically transform the way that we live our everyday lives and to enable Wellingtonians to make the right choices by the environment. So you know, you don’t actually have the privilege of three years to learn. You have three years to act significantly. So that’s what I’d say about my first bit of my term. Yeah.”

And her experience of council politics?

“I think it’s been really rewarding finally seeing some good representation of young people and students and Maori voices around the table; for me, that’s been really special and important. I think I’m able to handle the kind of more petty parts of this role, because I feel a sense of obligation towards the environment, and to people who need their political representatives to be making future-facing decisions. I guess the only time that was personally really challenging for me during the last two years would be the Shelly Bay decision, because … neither decision felt particularly good. And I have strong feelings about Maori land and preserving that. So it was personally very challenging seeing colonization so deep in personally, and I guess, contributing to the grief of that whole process was personally really challenging. I think aside from that everything else has been super manageable and exciting, I would say.

“… Well, if the people want me and need me to run again next year, then of course I would. That’s the space I operate from as a deep sense of gratitude, because, you know I shouldn’t be around the council table. I’m not your typical councillor around the country. And I wouldn’t have won if it wasn’t for a super grass roots, super engaged campaign. And so I feel super grateful for those people who sacrificed their weekends and time to door knock and all of those things to get me here. So, if they want me to do it again, of course, I’ll do anything to serve their interests and their aspirations for the future.”

Read Benoit Pette’s full interview with Tamatha Paul.


  1. ThankYouDriver, 16. August 2021, 19:46

    You’re an inspiration Tamatha! Fearless, sensible, and driven. Bring on good change and keep on challenging the status quo.

  2. michael, 17. August 2021, 9:52

    Keep up the good work Tamatha but if we are serious about climate change I question the push to spend hundreds of millions on a cycleway right next to the water. One only has to look at the photos of the Kapiti Coast rail line this morning to realise that these cycle lanes, supposedly built for the future, are likely to be exposed to the same problems from flooding to subsidence.

  3. Claire, 17. August 2021, 10:33

    I would like to see Wellington city councillors looking at what is already in place re the Govt. And look at plans by the Climate Commission for reducing emissions. It’s all very well protesting but often things are being done. Check the biggest bang for climate buck for example electric cars, better PT or even free PT. More charging stations, MeVo and more competition for them. Cycleways are bottom of the list at 2000 cycle rides a day. Take the community with you.

  4. Dave B, 17. August 2021, 12:55

    Michael, the proposed harbour-foreshore cycleway is actually a major sea-wall to protect the railway and road, with a cycleway on top. If you think this is a bad idea, what do you suggest? Do nothing and just accept that railway and road will be washed-out increasingly frequently?

    Claire, cyclists are being killed and injured by motor traffic because of a lack of safe cycling routes. This includes cyclist Brent Norriss who was knocked off his bike by an errant motorist on the Hutt Road last year.

  5. Ray Chung, 17. August 2021, 14:09

    I rented a Mevo electric Audi last weekend and I’m so impressed with it! Especially how the rental includes parking at any public parking spot. I’ve just returned from a meeting in the CBD and having a Mevo is so convenient. I didn’t see any cyclists out on such a horrid day! Sorry DaveB, I have a new bike but waiting for the good weather to ride it. Very unusual for Wellington, I have to say! I’m a strong advocate of public transport but I’m now a big fan of Mevo over waiting for a bus and having to carry all the stuff I need to show to customers!

  6. Claire, 17. August 2021, 14:16

    Dave B: I am sorry that any cyclist gets killed. But pedestrians, motorcyclists and dare I say it car drivers also get killed. All people need to take better care on the roads of themselves and others.

  7. bsmith, 17. August 2021, 14:33

    dave b, when was the last time the railway and road were washed out?

  8. Dave B, 17. August 2021, 17:06

    bsmith. 20/6/2013 was the biggie. The railway was washed out (being closer to the sea) and debris ended up all over the road. Minor washouts happen from time to time also.