Eurobodalla Shire Councillors are explaining their votes after Pat McGinlay failed in his bid for the council to declare a climate emergency on August 13.
Councillors McGinlay, Mayne and Thomson supported the words "climate emergency" in Cr McGinlay's motion, but councillors Innes, Pollock, Constable and Tait (councillors Nathan and Brown were absent) voted to replace the words with "variable and changing climate", at Cr Pollock's instigation.
Cr Pollock told the meeting he did "not necessarily agree with emotive descriptions" in declaring an emergency. "I respect there are views the community have expressed and have been represented by my fellow councillor (McGinlay)," he said. "I believe in achieving things in a practical manner. We have got off our behinds and done ground-breaking work." Cr Pollock was contacted for further comment.
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Cr Tait told the Bay Post/Moruya Examiner the motion was too political: "I'm not aligned with any political party. When I first received the email from Pat McGinlay ... I was for it. Then I start receiving form emails. He is the Greens representative ... he's put up a Greens policy. If Pat had put it up as his words, his writing ... maybe a lot of people would have looked at it differently." Cr Tait said the shire was "pretty green, pretty clean" and did not have a coal fire-powered station, smoke stack or factory that omitted pollution. "Pollution is what this is about. "What else can we do?" Cr Tait said associated costings were unknown and the August 13 Sydney stabbing "was an emergency".
Cr McGinlay denied his was a "Greens party motion": "It is an alignment with Greens policy ... and Labor policy ... with other groups. There was broad and widespread written communication to councillors. While I always intended to put forward a motion in regard to the climate emergency, the catalyst to the timing of this week's motion was two inspiring letters from two GPs, Dr Michelle Hamrosi and Dr Trudi Beck. Council staff also provided content in regard to good work done by them, so that I could acknowledge that. Otherwise the wording was mine."
The meeting went "worse than I expected" and lacked "genuine debate". "The motions were hijacked, then watered down, then most of the debate was around the amendments." He said Cr Pollock's foreshadowed motion was "bland" but "there was nothing in there that was bad".
Cr McGinlay was frustrated he had no notice of the amendments: "I gave notice to my fellow councillors about the intent of these motions 10 or 11 days before the meeting. To show up on the day to find amended motions ... it would have been nice to say, 'I've got some amendments' earlier. I had 10 to 15 minutes in the middle of the debate. "I was frustrated we were arguing about procedure, process and semantics rather than the heart of the matter."
Cr Thomson supported delcaring a "climate emergency" because "I believe in climate change". "It makes it hard to deal with the problem if you don't admit there is one. I'm not sure why it is such a big deal to admit it."
However, he did not support parts two and three of the original motion: "It put another layer of red tape over what we were already doing. The important thing was to make that (climate emergency) statement and to go up the line to state and federal governments." As an executive of the Australian Coastal Councils Association, he wants "policies to deal with it". "Many members of the community think climate change is a real thing. We may have to revisit that at some point in the future," he said.
Cr Mayne said it was time "to act decisively at a critical time in history". "It is an emergency and it's okay to be emotional about an emergency. We have declared our fire season two months early."
He said it was ironic that Mayor Liz Innes brought a motion on water restrictions in intense drought. Cr Mayne was encouraged by public forum speaker, Kaeleigh Peard, 11, who said the original motion, if accepted, could help future generations. "It's a disappointing outcome," he said. "(We) walked away from our responsibility, not withstanding the really positive works the shire does. It is an issue for humanity to address collectively."
Mayor Innes responded to an interview request with a statement: "Call it what you want, global warming, climate change, climate emergency, and so on, but what I think is important is that we all recognise the need to take well-considered and informed actions. Council's 2017-21 Emissions Reduction Plan (our response to climate change) sets ambitious targets. We're ahead of our 2020 target by two years, with a 35 per cent reduction, and we (are) aiming for an 80 per cent reduction by 2030." She said the council had installed more than 3000 solar panels on 29 facilities. "That's enough to power about 160 homes, and we plan more. There have been 21,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions savings, with cost savings of more than $1 million annually."
Cr Innes said the Climate Council acknowledged the shire "as a leader", and invited it to "join the Cities Power Partnership, to work with like-minded councils on new ways to reduce emissions".
"We must always be considered and conservative with our resources, water, food and energy. We must, however, be careful as to the added costs associated with these decisions to the community and our economy. Power prices and housing affordability are just two of those areas."
Cr Constable warned the meeting: "We might be going down the road of a very costly exercise. This is not an affluent community." Cr Constable was contacted for further comment.