Government plans to address climate change not ambitious enough, city leaders say

Christchurch City Council wants the Government to stop funding additional lanes on highways.

Stacy Squires/Stuff

Christchurch City Council wants the Government to stop funding additional lanes on highways.

Christchurch City Council is calling for greater powers to reduce local emissions as it criticises the Government’s plan to address climate change.

The council wants the ability to investigate and introduce new measures to combat climate change, including congestion charging, but says national legislation does not allow for that to happen.

In a submission to the Government’s plan to transition to a low-emissions and climate-resilient future, the council said it wanted to see greater ambition. It said the plan did not provide a clear direction on how New Zealand should reduce its emissions.

There needed to be a greater focus on reducing emissions through domestic initiatives rather than offsetting up to 66 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions by purchasing offshore climate offsets, the council said.

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It believed money spent on international offsets, which some have suggested could be $1 billion a year, should be invested in New Zealand now to drive greater emissions reductions at home.

But it was the suggestion that congestion charging could be in Christchurch’s future that sparked a heated debate at council on Wednesday.

In its submission, the council said congestion pricing was an initiative it was interested in investigating, and it would welcome assistance and legislative support in this area.


Climate Change Minister James Shaw announces the Government has released its draft carbon-cutting ideas to the public, so everyone can have a say. Video first published October 2021.

Cr Sam MacDonald wanted that reference removed from the submission.

He said he did not think Christchurch residents were keen on congestion charges, and he was concerned the council was offering a view on it without talking to the people of Christchurch first.

His call was supported by councillors Yani Johanson, Phil Mauger, James Gough, Aaron Keown, Tim Scandrett and Catherine Chu, but they did not have the numbers to get it removed. Ten voted to keep the reference in.

Johanson said the council needed to have a conversation with the community first, and he was concerned congestion charges would be forced on the city.

The council will spend $301m on building 13 major cycleway routes and about $187m of that will be funded by the Government.

Joseph Johnson/Stuff

The council will spend $301m on building 13 major cycleway routes and about $187m of that will be funded by the Government.

Cr Pauline Cotter said the council was only indicating it was interested in investigating congestion charging and to take that reference out would be starving itself of knowledge.

“We can’t afford not to look at that. We’re not making a decision that we’ll do it.”

Cr Celeste Donovan said the council should not be afraid of asking questions.

“We need to use all the tools in the tool box, and drivers need to pay the social cost of one of the many things that contribute to carbon emissions.”

The council approved the submission, but Crs MacDonald, Chu, Gough, Keown and Mauger did not support it.

The submission also called for more funding to be directed towards initiatives which enabled people to reduce their emissions including cycleways, and it wanted funding stopped to things that would result in increased emissions.

“Continuing to fund additional lanes on highways will not incentivise people to use their car less, or switch to public transport.”

The submission also took at dig at a lack of public transport funding for Christchurch. Between 2021 and 2024, Auckland would get $2.8b, Wellington $1.2b and Christchurch has been allocated $246m to spend on public transport.

“As New Zealand’s second-largest city, we would like to see far greater funding for public transport in the future, in order to assist with emission reduction efforts.”

The Government has spent hundreds of millions of dollars building motorways north and south of Christchurch in the past five years.

Its contribution to Christchurch’s major cycleway network was about $187m, but that was spread over more than 10 years.

The council wanted to see higher minimum standards for products that produce greenhouse gas emissions, including car exhausts. It also suggested it could be time to set a date to cease the sale of inefficient incandescent lightbulbs.

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