Having cake and eating it? QLDC’s Climate Action Plan omits

Queenstown Lakes District councillors voted to adopt a three-year climate action plan at their council meeting last week, but the plan has come under criticism for placing little importance on aviation emissions.

QLDC chief executive Mike Theelen said the draft plan had been developed following many months of expert advice and community engagement and sends a strong message that QLDC is serious about, and committed to, addressing climate impacts.

“The draft plan is aligned to Vision Beyond 2050 and demonstrates bold and progressive leadership on behalf of our community, who have told us very clearly through the quality of life survey results and feedback on earlier drafts that they are concerned about the effects of climate change on our district,” Theelen said. 

The overall goals for the district highlighted in the Climate Action Plan were to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 and to be resilient to the local impact of climate change across the whole district. A number of high-level outcomes have been identified in the Climate Action Plan including developing transformational options for net-zero emissions public transport, supporting a climate-responsive built environment and infrastructure, and working to ensure communities are climate-conscious and resilient.

But QLDC has been accused of ‘having its cake and eating it’ by some residents, who take issue with the juxtaposition posed by a plan to achieve net-zero carbon emissions while consultation for the expansion of Queenstown Lakes airports is underway. 

Wānaka Stakeholders Group chair Mark Sinclair said the omission of the region’s increasing aviation activity was a flaw in an otherwise robust climate plan. “There are lots of things in the plan that we are very positive about. But at the same time, we are gobsmacked that the council has not given significant weighting to the greenhouse gas impact – both direct and indirect – expanded airport operations in the southern lakes would bring.”

Addressing the plan, councillor Niki Gladding said she would “like to think, as a council, we wouldn’t be making decisions on airport growth ahead of the climate reference group coming back to us with the timeframes and the toolkit for reducing emissions”.

Theelan identified the plan as “Council’s first step to formally address a climate action programme,” adding that “a collaborative and cross-sector approach is required, as is an open mind to how the outcomes and actions identified in the plan are delivered. Much will depend on developing strong networks and identifying effective initiatives.”


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