The Rotorua Response

In contrast Rotorua doubled down on their commitment to tourism and their Vision 30 plan, warned the community to expect rates rises, and applied to government for millions in “shovel ready” funding without first consulting the community. Rotorua opted instead to shoulder tap business leaders for advice. That advice was to spend millions more on further developing the lakefront, the airport and Whakarewarewa forest biking in preparation for the return of tourists.   Not a single project that was chosen would enhance the environment or protect the community from climate change. 

Climate change has been on the back burner for too long.  Scientists have begged governments and councils around the world to act fast before our natural world and mild climate, our rain, and our ability to grow food are lost forever. 

Rotorua Lakes Council has ignored the warnings and is clinging to its Vision 30 plan.

When government announced the plan to fund shovel ready projects, we were told priority would be given to environment and climate change initiatives, such as:

  • Protecting or shifting communities away from floods and rising sea levels,

  • re-establishing and protecting wetlands,

  • protecting and improving water quality,

  • improving transport and rail networks, and

  • transitioning away from fossil fuels to clean renewable energy.

 

Lawyers for Climate Action have reminded the government of its legal obligation to adhere to the Paris Agreement and keep global warming below 1.5 degrees. 

The Commissioner for Climate Change and many environmentalists and groups have also called for the government to ensure the stimulus funding goes towards climate change projects.

They point to the Australia fires and droughts and temperature records which are broken year on year, the floods around the world and the North Island drought as evidence of what to expect if we keep ignoring the science.

 

The dangers of a 'business as usual' approach

By now Rotorua Lakes Council should have realised that a “business as usual” approach will be unable to boost international tourism or jobs and that a rates increase in support of building more tourism-related infrastructure will simply postpone our economic recovery. 

They should double back and consult with the community and, like Hamilton, develop a future focused plan that will increase job opportunities, support higher paid jobs, and set new standards in sustainability and environmental protection.

It is not too late for Rotorua Lakes Council to become a world leader in environmental and climate change projects and protect the community from floods and famine.  It is not too late to make every home climate safe or create healthy liveable communities but, if the council ignores the warnings for much longer, the opportunity for a uniquely Rotorua response to these global challenges will be lost. 

 

Patricia Hosking stood for climate change, housing, and the environment during the last Rotorua Lakes Council elections.  She lives on the boundary of a proposed special housing area where neighbours had seen previously flooded, with water over a metre deep.

Patricia Hosking Picture originally published Farmers Weekly www.farmersweekly.co.nz

 

NOTE: The Rotorua Lakes Council released details of a zero per cent general rates rise plan it is considering  for the 2020/21 annual plan.  The move is "part of a focus on continuing to cushion the impact of COVID-19 and support the district’s recovery".   See details at:
0% general rates rise proposed 

Uniquely Rotorua response to COVID-19 crisis missing

Patricia Hosking

14 May 2020

Rotorua has been hit hard by the pandemic, with businesses and jobs in tourism and hospitality the worst affected. It has caused enormous pain and disruption and uncertainty and there is more to come – this is a crisis. 

At the same time, it has provided an opportunity to reflect on what is important and how the economy might change going forward and on climate change, another looming crisis. 

Hamilton City has understood our predicament and adopted a new future focused vision for a post pandemic world. They consulted widely before selecting “shovel ready” projects that they hope will qualify for government funding, stimulate the economy, and create jobs.

All 23 projects including public transport and rail, housing and the creation of liveable communities had an environmental and climate change focus.  

Patricia Hosking

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