Pacific Institute of Resource Management
advisory board

Submissions to New Zealand Government

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1 June 2006

Submission to the Local Government and Environment Committee on the Resource Management (Climate Protection) Amendment Bill


  1. This submission is from the Pacific Institute of Resource Management (PIRM): PO Box 12125, Wellington;; 04 939 4553.
  2. Peter Barrett and Kay Weir, PIRM representatives, wish to appear before the committee.
  3. PIRM is a Pacific-wide charitable trust set up in Wellington in 1984 for the purpose of promoting justice, ecology and sustainability. It has a membership of over 350 people in New Zealand, and publishes Pacific Ecologist. Issue No 11 includes a range of articles concerning rising greenhouse gases and the threats of global warming. Current readership is around 3,000. PIRM also organises public forums and provides commentary on environmental and social issues. PIRM is not politically aligned and is funded by members and supporters.


  1. We strongly support the intent of this Bill because we consider that local government should be considering the effects of greenhouse gas emissions on climate change in all aspects of their work. We hope this will include plans and targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the council’s own operations, helping people and businesses within their communities to do likewise, and planning to mitigate the inevitable changes in the environment as a consequence of projected climate change and its side effects. This bill, if enacted, will empower regional councils to do this in the formulation of regional plans and granting of air discharge consents.
  2. PIRM’s position is based on a consensus among practising climate scientists internationally (IPCC 2001, Oreskes, 2005) i.e. that rising greenhouse gas emissions, caused by our burning of fossil fuels, are now leading to measurable global warming. What had been accepted by the majority over the last decade gained further support last July when 11 of the world’s leading science academies – the G8 countries, Brazil, India and China (attachment 1) – urged the G8 meeting in Edinburgh to plan for immediate action to deal with the problem.
  3. Climate scientists advise this will lead to increased extremes of weather (e.g. floods, droughts, hurricanes), and they are now documenting this in the case of recent heat waves in North America and Europe and for last year’s Hurricane Katrina in the US. In New Zealand our Climate Change Office has summarised what changes our scientists expect over the next few decades – increased precipitation on the west side and a drier climate on the east side, as well as more tropical storms. Our Pacific Island neighbours will be affected much more than us with cyclones, king tides and storm surges exacerbating the effects of rising sea level (now up to 3 mm/year from melting temperate glaciers and polar ice sheets).
  4. Further, there is growing evidence that rising CO2 levels are also affecting birds, animals, plants and fish. For example, in 2005 the Royal Society (U.K.) reported carbon dioxide emissions are acidifying oceans and must be reduced now to prevent potentially large-scale irreversible changes to marine life. Ocean acidification is a powerful reason, in addition to global climate change, for reducing global CO2 emissions.
  5. The root cause of this damage is, as George Bush observed, our addiction to fossil fuels. The core issues are how to get off the addiction and, prepare ourselves for surviving the damage already done – because the effects of CO2 already emitted will continue for several decades to come, even if we could reduce emissions to 1990 levels today.
  6. A problem so large in scale and so deep-rooted in our lives will require leadership and commitment at every level (community, city, regional council, national government). The only prospect of success in the long term, given the finite nature of the earth, can come from shifting to a low energy economy and a low energy lifestyle.
  7. The urgency of the problem has been stressed by climate scientists of international standing (e.g. NASA’s Jim Hanson, CBS News, and Lord Oxburgh at Wellington’s Climate Change and Governance meeting in March). The sooner we move, the better our future will be.
  8. New Zealand is better placed than almost any other country to replace fossil fuels with renewables, and can reduce vehicle dependency with more sustainable transport systems and better urban design, and improve our energy efficiency in buildings and transport. Local government has a pivotal role to play in helping bring the change about. Examples were given of work in this direction by Kapiti Coast and Kaikoura District Councils on the Sunday with Laidlaw programme of May 28, 2006. We hope this bill will expand and accelerate the plans of councils to reduce dependence on fossil fuels, and help them protect life and property from the worst consequences of future warming.


  1. We support the intent of this Bill on the basis that we consider it crucial to ensure local government can take every appropriate opportunity afforded by the formulation of regional plans and granting of air discharge consents, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The rules in these regional plans will affect all local authorities.
  2. We also urge the committee to seek support for the introduction of a national instrument to either manage these considerations in a coherent way, or to provide guidance to regional councils so as to ensure consistency in local decision-making.
  3. We particularly urge the promotion of public transport as a means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels, and the careful scrutiny of new roading schemes for the use of fossil fuel they require both for their construction and their use.

3 August 2006

Spoken submission: Dual Challenge – Global Warming – Fossil Fuel Depletion – Linked With Transport Emissions

NZ’s global warming emissions are continuing to rise above agreed levels and are now 20% above the 1990 agreed level. Rather than coming down our emissions are increasing.

Vehicle emissions in NZ from burning fossil fuels are the main culprit. The dual challenges of climate change and depletion of fossil fuels, give very strong reasons for changing our attitude to private car use.

Effective solutions to continually rising, dangerous transport emissions and fuel waste, mean expanded public transport, less private car use and less petrol consumption. However, these solutions clash with the overwhelming influence of car and oil lobbies and their primary interest in profits from selling large, polluting, fuel-inefficient cars, although fuel efficiency would create many thousands of jobs and save billions of dollars, while also reducing emissions. For a sustainable transport system, only government planning and regulation can foster the necessary paradigm changes.

Rail systems and public transport have been demolished around the world, including in NZ, in favour of the private car and the interests of car companies and oil interests. In Auckland, light rail plans have been consistently buried for decades. In the US, courts found three companies guilty of conspiracy to eliminate 90% of the country’s light rail system. As a result of the downgrading and demolition of public transport the number of people using public transport has dropped. These actions were widely condemned by professionally trained town planners, who regarded rail-based systems as important and necessary.

Recently it’s been announced in NZ the overnight train between Wellington and Auckland will be cancelled – largely because of cheap air fares – which don’t reflect the real costs of air travel.

Finally, for local government to implement plans to reduce carbon emissions, some funding from government may be essential, as well as advisory assistance from suitable experts.

Kay Weir
PIRM, Editor, Pacific Ecologist

Pacific Ecologist