11 September 2019

Bega Valley climate emergency vote wins - packed gallery cheers

| Ian Campbell
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A packed public gallery cheered at the outcome of the vote. Photo: Ian Campbell.

A packed public gallery cheered at the outcome of the vote. Photo: Ian Campbell.

Words are important. They hurt, love, laugh, lead and today bring urgency to the work of Bega Valley Shire Council and it’s Climate Resilience Strategy.

The full strategy and the climate change mitigation and adaptation measures it proposes will be out for public comment and consideration at the end of October.

Sitting in the chamber this afternoon, there seems to be a general feeling of agreement and pride in the document from Bega Valley Shire Councillors.

Today’s discussion however was around the use of the words ‘climate emergency’ within the document and more broadly across Council’s policies.

The original motion from Greens Councillor Cathy Griff read, “That Council’s Climate Resilience Strategy recognise the climate emergency.” And “That Council requires reports on relevant strategies, plans or initiatives to include assessment of potential climate change impacts.”

The motion was passed, with a small but meaningful amendment from the Mayor, five votes to three. Crs McBain, Griff, Seckold, Doods and Tapscott were in favour. Crs Nadin, Bain, and Fitzpatrick were against. Cr Tony Allen was absent.

No one denied climate change was real or the need for action, just the use of the words ‘climate emergency’ and possible impacts in Council’s budget and the broader community.

“The views around the room are the views you hear in our community,” Mayor Kristy McBain said, recognising a full and frank discussion.

In supporting her motions, Cr Griff explained “The intent of these Motions is to make clear Council’s understanding of the critical issue of climate change, prompting speedy response to protect our community and future generations from the projected catastrophic impacts of unchecked global heating. Few would deny we are in a drought emergency, which is indeed encompassed by a climate emergency.”

“It is critical to mobilise all levels of government in order to inspire change and coordinated policies.

“As of August 2019, the ACT Government, along with 33 Australian councils, representing millions of people, have declared a climate emergency – with many planning to follow suit. Internationally there is even a greater response from whole countries – UK, Canada, France to date.”

Locally, Snowy Monaro and Eurobodalla councils rejected the idea earlier this month because they “got bogged down in detail” Cr Griff said.

“This is what we make of it, the goal is to make council ambitious,” she said.

Supporters of the motion formed a human 'Thank You"' sign for council outside the chamber. Photo: Ian Campbell.

Supporters of the motion formed a human ‘Thank You”‘ sign for council outside the chamber following the decison. Photo: Ian Campbell.

Cr Robyn Bain described the term ‘climate emergency’ as “sexy words” suggesting they were designed to scare and divide communities. She spoke of the distress she has seen in her 11-year-old grandchild, but the relief that came when she explained to him what action council is taking.

“I am a practical person, we continue to do something – strong positive actions, we don’t need climate emergency stamped on us.”

Asked what the term would mean to staff Dr Alice Howe, Director Community, Environment and Planning said, “it would increase the action” and “accelerate measures”.

Asked by Cr Mitchell Nadin what the budget implications would be, Dr Howe explained no staff assessment had been made but that any budget impact would be brought back to councillors for determination.

The motions were supported by an online petition of over 5,000 signatures and a traditional pen and paper petition of 838 names launched by Bega’s Domi Turville.

“I feel very happy, it’s a good step,” Ms Turville told Region Media after the meeting.

“There has been so much wonderful support, everyone is giving me more credit than I deserve.”

Ms Turville says she will be following council’s progress on the issue.

At the end of the discussion, the overflowing public gallery applauded the outcome and presented councilors with a certificate thanking them for providing leadership.

Domi Turville and mum Cath. Photo: Ian Campbell.

Domi Turville and mum Cath. Photo: Ian Campbell.

Bega Valley Shire Council’s Climate Resilience Strategy is still being developed and is expected to be released for public comment following the meeting of October 30.

“Council’s Clean Energy Plan, released in June, was unanimously supported by Councillors,” Cr Griff said.

“It covers opportunities and benefits of reducing the carbon footprint of Council’s own operations.

“A draft of a broader Climate Resilience Strategy is being finalised for consideration by Council and the community, applicable to the whole Shire.”

Update – August 29

Late in the day, following the meeting, a rescission motion was lodged challenging Cr Griff’s motions, so the issue will return to the chamber for further debate. More to come.

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What is the Councils direction on land clearing and back burning.

Sandy Wilder5:37 pm 02 Sep 19

Congratulations Bega Councillors and Bega community. Be great if Eurobodalla council would re think their decision.

Carolyn Griffin10:25 am 30 Aug 19

I think it is absolutely right and proper to use the words Climate Emergency.
That is exactly what we are dealing with the world over, and hearing the words used by Cr Robyn Bain, describing the term ‘climate emergency’ as “sexy words” is insulting, and in my view, suggests that she is both ignorant and in denial. How stupid to describe something so real and threatening to our future as ‘sexy’ Reading that she saw distress in her grandchild, may well have been caused by the influence of the Grandparent. I am a grandparent myself, aged 70, and with 7 grandchildren. My fear is for their future, and I am extremely proud of my 13 year old granddaughter, whose knowledge of climate change is immense, and who’s action by attending two major climate change protests in the city of Melbourne speaks volumes. She is in fear of what she knows is happening to her country and the world, and yes, she is frightened, for her future. Thank you to those Councilor’s who have a vision for action, including Mayor McBain. We live in an amazing part of NSW, surrounded by magnificent National parks, waterways and beaches, but I am acutely aware of the change to our climate with the recent warmer than usual winter season, and the lack of good rainfall of recent times. I see that there is a depressed feel around this beautiful countryside that I drive through regularly from my home on the coast to the little village of Cobargo, and the plight of our Dairy Farmers. We cannot continue to be short sighted. Climate change is an emergency that must be fought against. Thank you for voting for change and action.

I don’t think it was a great voting system.
Three to two! What about asking the whole community. Isn’t that what we are about!
Not just council greens deciding for everyone. This is very unfair.
We the community pay the rates that pay their wages…
So we are the voice not them.
Council forget who they represent also what they are surposed to do under there job description. Rates, Roads, Rubbish.
Also they really are illegal under the constitution.
It’s all virtue signalling to make them feel good as they have no conscious.

Marianne Kambouridis12:22 pm 29 Aug 19

Well done Domi for all your passion. As for our three councillors who appear to have sabotaged this motion, you are jeopardising our future, our health and our environment by being so anti-change. You may also like to consider that you have been elected by the very community who demand change for the better and this community has spoken. Next elections you are OUT!

Karen O'Clery10:30 am 29 Aug 19

Thank you BVSC, in particular Cr. Cathy Griff. A hiccup though? In the Mayor’s meeting wrap-up she mentioned a recision motion?

Ian Campbell10:49 am 29 Aug 19

Thanks Karen, talking to the Mayor soon. Cheers

Just so wonderful Bega Valley Shire Councillors. Thank you for taking our children’s future into account by introducing the emergency into you Climate Resilience Strategy.

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