Climate Change - What Council is Doing

Acknowledgements: Our special  thanks go to Thames High School students Helena Mayer and Lillian Balfour for their significant contribution to the improvement of Council's website information.

Our Council's response to the challenges climate change poses consists of both adaptation and mitigation measures. Read on to find out more ...

The local government sector in New Zealand has made it clear through its representative body, Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ), that Central Government must take the lead and work with local government on what we do going forward to address climate change and its impacts.

In January 2018, our Council adopted, and has begun to implement, the Government's Coastal Hazards and Climate Change Guidance for Local Government 2017. The Ministry for the Environment website contains much information, including assessments of climate change and its impacts on New Zealand.

Waikato Regional Council has information on climate change and actions people can take on this page.

Advocacy

We're advocating through LGNZ to central government, asking them to lead the response for small coastal communities like ours when it comes to possible threats to infrastructure, private property, and the local economy.

Triangular relationship between central government, council and LGNZ

We also work closely with Waikato Regional Council, which is charged with managing our region's water and coasts.

Mitigation

We have taken action to help reduce and stabilise the levels of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere (mitigation):

EV chargers - we worked with Charge Net and Powerco and with support from the EECA's Low Emissions Vehicle Contestable Fund established the Coromandel EV Scenic Touring Route, an network of five fast charging stations that provided EV drivers full access to the Coromandel. This has helped spur the uptake of EVs in the district, attracted EV-driving visitors here, and helped reduce CO2 (carbon dioxide) emissions.

Our Mayor Sandra Goudie is championing electric vehicle use by driving a Toyota Camry electric hybrid as her mayoral car.

LED streetlights - we're reducing carbon emissions (and saving ratepayers money) by switching our streetlights to LED lamps, which use less energy than the previous sodium and other lamp types. NZTA has contributed 85% of the replacement cost.  

By 30 June we will have saved:

  • Approximately $90,000 worth of electrical power over our usage in 2017/18
  • An additional $90,000 in maintenance
  • Approximately 750,000 kWh, which equates to 100 tonnes of carbon not released into the atmosphere

This saving in electrical energy is equivalent to the power we use in our Council's main office building in Thames over 2.3 years.

Our Council is partnering with EECA and other Waikato councils through the Waikato Local Authority Shared Services to monitor energy use at all our sites, investigate opportunities for energy efficiency improvements and increase the use of renewable energy - all of which will reduce carbon emissions and save ratepayers' money.

We're working to get people out of their cars by working with community groups and existing trail managers (such as the Hauraki Rail Trail) to create and improve walking and cycling infrastructure. Examples include the Coromandel Tracks and Trails Forum we held in November 2018 to bring together groups looking to develop tracks in their community, and our updated Your Coromandel Tracks and Trails Guide.

We've provided an affordable public bus service in Thames - the Thames Connector.

With community involvement we have planted and maintain thousands of trees in the World War One Memorial Forests and we work with schools and community groups to plant fruit trees and native tree species in suitable reserves as part of the Enviroschools and Trees for Survival programmes. We also work actively with Waikato Regional Council and community beach care groups to plant sand-binding native species on sand dunes to make them more resilient against erosion. Growing trees remove carbon dioxide from the air, store carbon in the trees and soil, and release oxygen into the atmosphere.

Adaptation

Our Council adopted the Coastal Management Strategy in June 2018. This sets out a range of initiatives we have begun to undertake to better manage our coastal assets and understand the risk of coastal inundation and coastal erosion. The 2018-2028 Long Term Plan includes $2.6 million over three years to help us implement this strategy. 

This approach to coastal management activity ensures a district-wide approach, allowing us to better-manage our coastline from a holistic and long-term perspective. We work together public and private organisations such as the Waikato Regional Council, New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA), the Department of Conservation, iwi and community groups with an interest in coastal protection.

A major step in carrying out the Coastal Management Strategy is the development of Shoreline Management Plans (SMPs). In May 2019 our Council appointed international consultancy Royal HaskoningDHV to support the development of the SMPs.

Our district is the first in New Zealand to undertake the development of SMPs across the whole district, with the active involvement of all stakeholders. SMPs have previously been developed in a couple of other locations in New Zealand, but never on the scale we have embarked on.

"The Coastal Management Strategy is something we have been working on for quite some time as part of our focus on ensuring our communities are engaged, prepared, protected and safe in the long-term," Mayor Sandra says.

The SMPs for Thames-Coromandel will be developed using Ministry for the Environment Guidelines for Councils, which take into account a 1.88m sea level rise by 2150, and by using the Dynamic Adaptive Pathway Planning (DAPP) tool, which sets out how to prepare for coastal change.

Research

For our mitigation and adaptation measures to have the best chance of succeeding, we need good local data on what is happening. Recently, the government has funded significant research led by Prof Tim Naish and others through the NZ Sea Rise project to apply global sea-level rise projections to New Zealand coasts to model potential impacts on coastal areas and groundwater systems. One of the areas of study is Thames. We are particularly grateful for this as the cost for such research far exceeds our ratepayers capacity to fund.