Community & Business

20 May, 2022

Councillors speak out against climate policy

A STRATEGY aimed at managing the risks around climate change for Tablelands Regional Council has been adopted but not without opposition from two councillors who made it clear they did not support the document.

By Robyn Holmes

Councillors speak out against climate policy - feature photo

The Climate Risk Management Strategy outlines various actions over the next five years to minimise the organisational risks of climate change, reduce emissions, and support the transition to a low carbon future. 

Councillor Dave Bilney spoke passionately of the need for council to acknowledge and plan for the effects of climate change, especially given the natural environment within the local government area. “The strategy is a guiding principle so it’s imperative that we get it right and endorsed by council which will give a clear direction and certainty of actions,” he said. “Our Tablelands region is not just a run-of-the-mill local government – it has internationally significant natural heritage areas within our borders. “There continues to be a growing expectation that council provides leadership and direction in relation to climate mitigation and adaption.” 

Cr Bilney said the strategy would underpin the development or the review of other policies attached to climate mitigation and the adaption responses and actions. “Whilst this may present some challenges for council, it will also present opportunities for the community, for the environment and for our economy,” he said. 

But Deputy Mayor Kevin Cardew said he believed the strategy was premature and he was concerned that actions outlined in the document had not been costed. “I’m flabbergasted – I don’t support this at all unlike my colleague – I think it’s a little bit premature,” he said. “I don’t think anyone really understands the impact of climate change - I certainly don’t think it’s this council’s responsibility to lead the way in climate change even within our local government area. Our State and Federal leaders can’t get it right – how are we going to get it right? “If climate does become an issue and it’s identified that it is having an effect in certain areas, then it’s up to our state and federal politicians to make policy to address that and then it flows down to local government.” He was concerned that actions outlined in the strategy were not costed. “There’s no indication of dollars – to be honest, no one really knows what the impacts of climate change are so I think we’re putting the cart before the horse in this. “The allocation of council funds into something that’s not fully understood at this point, and there’s no indications on what those funds will be. We’d be entering into an area of uncertainty and it could backfire on us.” 

As Chair of the local disaster management group, Cr Bernie Wilce said he understood the importance of having strategies in place. “As the elected members of our community, we have to show that we are listening to one of the largest trending issues that we have impacting us directly at the moment and to what extent that we can play our part,” he said. “We’ve got to show our community that we have at least a strategy to look at this situation. “We can’t just sit where we are with things – we have to have contingencies in place and a strategy ready so that we can progress this as so many other local governments around the state.” Cr Peter Hodge made it clear he was unconvinced that climate change was having any effects. “If the two learned councillors here (Crs Bilney and Wilce) can prove to me that sea levels have risen in the past 50 years, then I would support it,” Cr Peter Hodge said, which brought a sharp rebuke from Cr Bilney. “I don’t appreciate that sort of comment – it’s not doing us any favours,” he said. “To say that we’re being premature (in adopting the strategy), I would say we are well behind.” Cr Hodge said he would be prepared to “note” the report but did not want to adopt the strategy, citing comments within the strategy that he did not agree with such as the forecast that costs would escalate for a number of council departments would be up for rising costs in the future. The strategy was eventually adopted, with Crs Cardew and Hodge voting against it.


Most Popular