Regional government can deliver on climate commission's advice

  • Published Date 03 Feb 2021

Providing emissions free public transport and rebuilding natural infrastructure like forests and wetlands are two ways regional government can help Aotearoa New Zealand stick to the Climate Change Commission's new emission's budgets, says Greater Wellington Climate Committee chair Cr Thomas Nash.

"Regional government has access to some of the most effective emission reduction levers in the country and with the right support from central government we are ready to pull those levers right now. The Commission's final advice should put more focus on the need for partnerships between local and central government to achieve the pathways it is setting out.

"The Commission's transport advice relies on regional government giving people better options for public transport so that we don't have to drive. The truth is we are not on track for the scale of change we need. Road transport emissions in the Wellington region have grown by eight per cent since 2001 and it's a similar story in other regions.

"Reversing that trend means opening up our cities so that road space is shared more equitably between people using footpaths, cycleways and bus lanes, rather than just private cars. This means smarter, more connected urban design that gives everyone the chance to get around.

"Electrifying the transport fleet - from trains, buses and ferries to private cars - is an urgent priority, but the key to reducing emissions is opening up space for people and public transport and building energy efficient public housing along transport corridors and above and around bus and train stations."

Greater Wellington along with our region's local councils, mana whenua and government agencies are drawing up Wellington's Regional Growth Strategy. The strategy aligns with the Climate Commission's advice on transport and urban development, including more opportunities for cycleways and active transport and focusing higher density housing around public transport hubs.

"The regional growth strategy hinges on the development of comprehensive, reliable, affordable and low emissions public transport. Greater Wellington is electrifying the Metlink bus fleet. We are already adding 98 new electric buses, so one in five Metlink buses will soon be electric. With support we can move faster, and we hope to the Government's new fund can speed the pace of transition. National level procurement of electric buses is the best way to make this transition affordable."

While transitioning to electric cars is useful, Cr Nash says, investment in modern, clean, comfortable electric buses should have more prominence in the Commission's final advice given the critical role decarbonised public transport will play in encouraging mode shift and reducing emissions. 

"Dollar for dollar, investment in public transport will do far more to meet our climate targets."

Alongside reducing transport emissions, Greater Wellington is moving quickly to rebuild the critical natural infrastructure that will both reduce emissions and increase resilience to climate change. 

"Like all major landholders, councils have to focus on sustainable land use. For us as Greater Wellington this means phasing out live-stock grazing as a land management tool and instead bringing back wetlands and restoring permanent native forests.

"Greater Wellington is pleased to see the commission's support for reducing reliance on commercial forestry in favour of permanent native forests, an issue that we actively pursuing as a council."

Updated March 30, 2022 at 3:22 PM

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