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Bay of Plenty Regional Council candidate: New Zealand can save ‘diddly squat’ in emissions

Despite the majority of Bay of Plenty Regional Council candidates agreeing that climate change was an issue facing Tauranga, they all drove their cars on World Car Free Day.

The revelation came during a Tauranga Constituency ‘meet the candidate’ event last week.

It was held at the Trinity Conference Centre and Tauranga Business Chamber CEO Matt Cowley was the MC.

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Twelve of the 17 candidates fronted for the evening, all vying for one of five available seats in the regional council’s Tauranga Constituency.

The glut of candidates comes on the back of the 2019 election where five people stood and were elected unopposed.

Candidates at the event were Stephen Wheeler, Larry Baldock, Murray White, Bryan Deuchar, Jos Nagels, Ron Scott, Kat MacMillian and Mark Fogerty.

They were joined by current regional councillors Stuart Crosby, David Love, Paula Thompson and Andrew von Dadelszen, who are standing for re-election.

They were quizzed on everything from public transport and bus safety in Tauranga, to climate change, government reforms and co-governance with Māori.

The questions were a from a “variety of sources” including supplied questions from the public through the council website and those attending on the night, according to a regional council spokesperson.

During a round of quick fire yes or no questions, candidates were asked if they had driven a car that day, which was World Car Free Day, all of them had. They were also asked if they had used public transport in the past week and two out of the 12 had.

One of the “deep dive questions” about regional council’s key impact areas was: “Climate change is one of the council’s key issues. What two things could the regional council do to prepare for the inevitable difficulties that climate change will bring to our region?”

A crowd of around 40 people gathered to hear the Tauranga Constituents thoughts.

Alisha Evans/Sun Media

A crowd of around 40 people gathered to hear the Tauranga Constituents thoughts.

This question was posed to each of the candidates, while others were alternated or selected at random.

Love said, it was one of the “biggest risks and threats we face” and that the response so far was “cosmetic rather than having any real effect on the climate itself”.

He suggested “concentrating” on subsidies or interest free loans for solar power “to utilise natural resources to protect our environment”.

Wheeler agreed with Love about using solar more and said regional council had the “ability” to fund low interest loans for solar power.

Baldock said “actions not words” were needed and he had solar panels on his home, which needed to be “incentivised”, and he drove a hybrid vehicle.

The former Tauranga City Councillor wanted to focus on nitrogen dioxide pollution in the city because it was “quite intense”.

“We need to switch a little bit, not forget about climate change. That climate change emergency thing. I mean, it was just words surely,” said Baldock.

Scott said: “The biggest thing was to accept it [climate change] was happening and not pretend that we can make a big difference on a worldwide scale” but do things to “ameliorate” the impact.

Fogerty said: “We needed to look after our water resources better”.

White said: “With India and China punching out huge amounts of CO2. What we can save is diddly squat. My thinking is [to] mitigate, it is not to try and stop our emissions.”

von Dadelszen said regional council was: “very good at the hui not so good at the doey’” and the “big issue” was not sea level rise but storm effect, which needed to be mitigated.

Tauranga Business Chamber CEO Matt Cowley was the MC

Sun Media

Tauranga Business Chamber CEO Matt Cowley was the MC

“We’ve set ourselves up as a climate emergency, and what have we really done,” he said.

Other candidates focussed more on emission mitigation through public transport, which is one of the regional council’s key roles in the region.

MacMillan said “transforming the public transport system in Tauranga” was needed as was getting people out of single driver cars.

Crosby agreed mitigation of emissions in the transport space was needed and said regional council was not doing a “particularly good job … in the public transport space”.

Nagels wanted to put in passenger rail as public transport claiming it would “drop emissions by 20 per cent overnight” and use “prudent methods” to reduce emissions.

Bus driver Deuchar wanted improvements to the bus network, including improving driver conditions and said flooding and heatwaves were an issue.

Thompson took a different approach, and said Tauranga needed a mantra of “sustainable growth is good” instead of “growth is good”.

The candidates not at the event were Jason Nicholls-Faitele, Mark Wassung, Matt Cooney, Murray Guy and Phil Ross.

Other events were or would be held for the five other Bay of Plenty Regional Council Constituencies, with information available on the council’s website.

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air.

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